Baptists don’t really Lent like the rest of the Christian world. We’re too maverick, too non-traditional. For Pete’s sakes, most of us don’t even have an organ anymore.An organ in church, I mean. We do have heart. But many conservatives of all stripes — even Baptists — long for the comfort of spiritual traditions. If this is you, come closer for a confessional whisper. If not, take a warm hug with you as you go on with your lovely life of worship in the way God convicts you.
Several years ago, I became enamored with Lent. The season of spiritual and physical fasting, the inner expectation of resurrection, the hunger for more of the Spirit beckoned me to leave my self, my self-centered existence, and follow after. After more through less.
But my people are not liturgical. At. All. My husband grew up in Peru, where the clash between the Catholic tradition and the Protestant freedom was still tense in his own family (his own grandfather was a missionary persecuted for preaching Protestant gospel in the jungles). So Christmas and Easter is about as far as he can go into the Church calendar.
And, yeah, I’m Baptist. Need I say more.
Since girlhood, I have been drawn to the orderly comfort of church disciplines. Robes, preludes, communion, fasting enable me to more clearly see God’s grace and forgiveness. And yearn for more.
Lent called me. I resisted, fearful of the Pharisaical implications possible to my watching family and in my own life. And I also recognized resistance to giving up something I loved. Loved more than God Himself.
So I hesitantly started a quiet, private Lent. I fasted lunch for 40 days one year. I rose earlier for longer devotions another year. I began looking forward to a marathon of turning from physical comfort (laziness?) toward closer fellowship with Christ.
A year ago, however, I faced a crisis of faith. The spiritual disciplines became a desperate attempt to find my first love. My prayers became bitter and caught in my throat. Heaven, as the saying goes, became brass. (I told you I would always be honest with you. Life is not always skipping through the sunshiny feels with Jesus holding your hand.)
So for Lent last year, I prayed The Book of Common Prayer every day. It doesn’t get much more non-Baptist than that. But the daily Bible readings comforted me, while the prayers gave words to my faltering voice.
This year’s Lenten season finds me more hopeful as I spy the light at the end of my valley. So I have prayed earnestly (one of the few prayers I found ready in my heart) that my new fasting would be revealed, something to help me glimpse yet more of His face.
A week or so ago, I read this:
In his sermon on Psalm 62:1 — “For God alone my soul waits in silence” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer took time to explain the modern fear of silence, and to show how modern man has avoided it by media, a phenomenon operating in late 1920s Germany.
First, he said, we seek new noise to avoid ourselves.
“We flee silence,” Bonhoeffer said. “We race from activity to activity to avoid having to be alone with ourselves for even a moment, to avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror. We are bored with ourselves, and often the most desperate, wasted hours are those we are forced to spend by ourselves” (Works10:503).
We hate it. Silence inevitably forces uncomfortable truths back into our vision. Who we are, who we have become, the good and the bad and the revolting and the boring — all things about our lives, the things we would love to change, the memories and events and the scars we would never expose on social media. In the silence, nothing about us remains hidden; everything bubbles again to the surface. Taking and sharing new selfies is always easier than the fearful unknown of what will emerge if everything becomes silent.
— Tony Rienke, “Why We Should Escape Social Meda (And Why We Don’t),” desiringgod.org, 01.20.18
Then from a contemporary writer that has shaped my view of Sabbath:
I took the forced Sabbath as permission for remembering the markers of my past, praying between pages of books, contemplation, and journaling all the things. That time was a capsule of uninterrupted intimacy with Jesus. I practiced listening and adoration more than requesting and seeking help. I anticipated silence and waiting.
— Shelley Miller, “Dancing into February After a January Setback,”
When it is hard to hear His voice, silence beckons my soul be still. Be still and know. Be still and see. Be still, my soul.
This Lent, I am practicing strict social media stillness. Social media and blogging are closed, shut into the closet of my life while I open the windows of my heart to welcome in the fresh air.
Don’t get me wrong — I love social media. I love the connections, I love the laughs, I love the conversations. I love you, you close friends I have met there and chat with every day.
There is nothing sinful about Facebook.
Sometimes, though, God asks me to give up something to Him. To leave a love behind to draw closer in adoration of Who He is.
So for 40 days beginning tomorrow, I bid you adieu. I pray that the weeks will be joyous for you, that your own walk with the Lord will be just as sweet, and that we all can join together later in laughter and love.
For no matter our Lenten practice (or not, as your freedom in Christ may be), Christ draws us all to Himself with each day’s new mercies. They fail not, as does not He.