The Wonder of Lent

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Good Friday Art Walk, photo by Eugene C Scott

This year I couldn’t wait for Lent.  So I started early.  February 4 to be exact.  I know that sounds akin to being excited about getting fired or wearing shoes two sizes too small.  But last year during Lent I added a measure of silence to my life by fasting from television and radio.

It was delicious.  It was like an extended beach vacation where I basked in time for thinking, reading, praying, hiking, listening, watching, writing poetry and my novel (and this blog), photography, and talking with friends and my family.  And doing nothing.  It was rich.  The richest part was the freedom I gained.

There was no talking head or disembodied radio voice telling me what to buy or which current crisis to worry over.  I was free to think my own thoughts, listen to my own music, invent my own stories.  Little do we know how much ambient thought control we submit ourselves to (but that’s another blog on another day).

I didn’t go back until August when the Denver Broncos once again took the field.  Around seven months.  Even then I watched mainly football.  I mean a guy has priorities.  Fitting it was then that I again took up my mass media fast the day after the Super Bowl.

I couldn’t wait for Lent.  Why wait for a good thing?

It’s been two weeks and I’ve been surprised how easy it’s been.  The first day or two I reached reflexively for the knob on the dash.  And I’ve not even thought of television.  And that’s a little disappointing.  Last year the wrestling match in my mind was brutal.  The skinny guy won but the thought of giving up had me in a half-nelson a couple of times.

And out of that struggle came the insights, the learning.  Now I find myself falling into other patterns.  My mind has chained itself to new salve owners.  Mainly thoughtlessness.  Routine.  Low expectations.

Therein rests the new challenge.

This feast of silence will not be one of being caught by surprise.  I hope to be caught by surprise on purpose.

Photo by Eugene C Scott

I’m going to use the silence to renew wonder in my life.  In “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” Eugene H. Peterson writes that as children we “lived in a world of wonders” but that “wonder gets squeezed out of us.”   He goes on to say, “wonder is deep and eternal, that we are part of a creation that is ‘very good.’”

At this point, however, I’m not sure what wonder is.  Do you know?  Let’s look together.  I’ll let you know what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing.  Maybe we can wonder together.

10 thoughts on “The Wonder of Lent”

  1. Georgie-ann

    So good,… I can taste it,… we are contingent beings,… not nearly as independent and autonomous as we would “like” to think,… or as we have been conditioned and programmed to think,… or that we give ourselves credit for being,… but unless we have our contingent “priorities” in order, we can become tightly linked in, and spiritually and psychologically interwoven with, a consuming matrix that can dominate and even “chew up” our very soul, our very life (force),…

    I think of how “natural” it is for a dog to bond itself tightly to its master, and then gradually link itself in lesser degrees to (usually friendly) “others” in its vicinity,… this is an obvious sub-drama that plays out daily, (rather noticeably, but just a little below the general human radar), in our senior living complex,… it is “obvious” that a dog is a contingent being with priorities that deeply organize and motivate and control its general behavior, affections, choices and moves,… and some dogs seem happier than others, for whatever reasons,… an “independent” dog, however, is usually a “lost” dog, caught up in feverishly fending for its own very desperate survival,…

    Our human contingency is very interesting to study,… we WILL bond ourselves to something, but the question is “what/who?” and the variables are many,… if we look only at the “visible” human level, we see people bonding not only to other people (more and less familiar), but also to various societies and expectations, protocols, ideas, appetites, media phenomena and distractions, entertainments, addictions, and so on and on,… often things that are human derivatives may substitute for real human touch, experience and interaction,… we live with varying levels of fulfillment and lack thereof,… our bonds may be healthy and nurturing, or distorted, dysfunctional, compulsive, one-sided, and unsatisfactory,… this has been called “the human condition”,… and it never really resolves itself,… it just goes on and on,… we’re becoming all too familiar with it, and even sick of it, in many instances,… escaping to “silence” becomes a beautiful option,…

    But unless we bond to “something”/Someone more transcendent in that “silence”, its joys and relief will be short-lived, because “sheer emptiness” is often experienced as dire pain for the human soul,… “emptiness”, felt unconnected-ness, can drive the human soul to many strange and false conclusions, and lead to distorted behaviors that are incomprehensible to most,…

    Where does it all begin (the Fall?)?,… in the womb?,… at mother’s knee?,… in front of the tv screen?,… at McDonald’s?,… in the educational system?,… in our society, by 18 years of age, do we really “know who we are?”,… are we really “prepared to face life?”,… (and “the hereafter”?),… are we even prepared to face our own “autonomous” selves?,… if we are somewhat prepared, we are blessed indeed,… but many aren’t very well prepared, and will continue on in an imitative, consuming, “automatic pilot” programming that they have picked up and adjusted to along the way,… the resulting “society” becomes an ever-increasing phenomenon of the proverbial “blind leading the blind”,…

    Luke 6:39 “And He spoke a parable to them: ‘Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?'”

    I saw the expression “God complex” mentioned recently, referring to the perceived inordinate egoism of the human topic being held under the dissecting conversational microscope of the moment,… it’s an old term,… “Narcissism” has come “into vogue” in more recent times to characterize similar tendencies,… but “God complex” has a certain “ring” to it that is not only very aptly descriptive, but ratchets up the “narcissism” to an even higher level of human absurdity and presumption,…

    (just to insert an FYI at this point,… it “used to be said” that because for the Jews the Messiah had not yet come, a Jewish mother could be tempted to seriously consider her own son as the possible potential “messiah”, in their still unfolding religious drama,… this was just one psychological scenario that could help to promote a “God complex” taking hold in an individual — which, of course, would be considered to be a very delusional condition, if really so,… this FYI is just an example of how the term used to be used,… end FYI)

    Having been “a Christian” now, and for a really long time, the complex and trying, human-egotistical “God complex” issues of former days had literally faded from my sight,… we worship God,… we are ABLE to worship God, because we KNOW that we are NOT God,… we have accepted this deeply, and know that we have a real need in our soul to be bonded with and accepted by a spiritual savior, who will redeem us from our spiritual and psychological poverty, our isolation, depravity, and aloneness,… thus it is our pure JOY to be bonded with, and worship, our Father God, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,…

    But if, instead of the Christian perspective, individuals in our society are developing personal “God complexes” again (and being encouraged to do so!) — for/by whatever “conditioning” reasons — we are in serious trouble,… because: It is IMPOSSIBLE to BE God and to worship Almighty God at the same time,… this is a “one or the other”, mutually exclusive, kind of proposition,… either God is on the throne — OR — I am (OR rather, satan’s proferred delusion is,…),…

    To accept our humanness, our need, and our special place of redemption, in the eyes and heart of our “Beloved Savior” and “Father God”, is to know our need for bondedness in right priority with the realities of Creation,… there are no satisfactory substitutes,… “Centering prayer”, practiced with faith in our Lord, is a beautiful form of maximizing the benefits of “silence” and inner peace,… as we quiet things down on the “outside”, we allow the inside to touch on new levels of being in the “inner life”,…

    Song of Solomon 4:15 “You are a fountain [springing up] in a garden, a well of living waters, and flowing streams from Lebanon.”

    John 4:10-12
    10 “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’

    11 “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?'”

    old song: “Spring up, oh well, within my soul,… spring up, oh well, and make me whole,…”

    1. Georgie: What a deep and thoughtful reply. “Contingent beings.” I like that phrase and it certinly describes me. I’m glad God is more than that.

      1. Georgie-ann

        God IS so much bigger than all of us “contingent beings” put together (with all the problems we make for ourselves all the time!), and yet is aware of the smallest things,… It is good to be “on His side” in all the emerging, and yet passing, dramas that we continually face in life,… and better yet, having Him on our side!

        In the Amplified version of the words of Paul:

        2 Timothy 1:12 “And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still I am not ashamed, for I know (perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day.”

        Amen, Paul,… Amen,… and “thank you!”

  2. James Tate

    Scott, your article, The Wonder of Lent, is well written and interesting. I commend you for fasting TV and Radio–tough, I have no doubt.
    You asked about the wonder of things. I hope my repetitive wonder is not too grandiose, and, as such I hesitate to share it here. Let me preface it with the statement that I have no doubts about God’s existence — absolute,irrevocable!
    My recurring wonder is this, In past eons of time how did He begin? Man’s logic can not imagine this! He’s the Great I Am. The Alpha and Omega, The beginning and the end,
    But how?

  3. Eugene, my apologies for calling you by your last name. I visited my tax man this morning and his first name is your last, My only excuse.

    1. James, No problem. Happens a lot to us guys with two first names 🙂 Thanks for your thoughful reply. Yes, we wonder how. And God does not seem in any hurry to answer the question. Maybe God leaves us in wonder on purpose. I’m not sure I’d understand the how any more than I understand much else in life.

  4. It’s amazing how liberating it is to be freed from our routines and mindlessness. I am moving into my new rental place on Friday, and I’m planning on not getting cable this time around. Very, very excited about this proposition!

  5. Lisa: I love that word: liberating. I never saw Lent as liberating before. I want to hear how a cableless life goes. If not for football, I’d . . . .

  6. Eugene – This is great. Your text is brief but enough to draw out some significant responses. What I enjoy about your writing is that you don’t need to say a lot to make your point. Your heart is evident in the point you made. Having grown up in a liturgical church I have a long tradition with Lent. I will grant you that some of it was ritual but not all ritual is flawed. My wife and I sought out a less liturgical church in 2002 and that is how I am now a Reformed Presbyterian. We are still liturgical but not to the extent that the Lutheran Church was.
    I have never fasted, nor have I given up anything for lent. I can’t even give up TV because I don’t have one. The benefit of the computer is that I just get the headlines, when it comes to media, and that’s all I need. The tradition for me with Lent is first repentance as we often see in Ash Wednesday a reference to Psalm 51. Being of a Reformed Tradition now repentance is an integral part of these 40 days for me. It is not as if I spend all of this time feeling guilty of my sinful past. After all Psalm 51 is a Penitential Psalm and David knew his sin was forgiven even before his prayer was finished. So, while I consider my sinful nature I rejoice in knowing what lies ahead at the cross and that is my redemption. It is a time to contemplate the great grace of God and all that I am blessed with each day. I find these days a wonderful time to give thoughtful consideration to my relationship with Christ. My message for tomorrow will be “Cleansing the Temple” and that is our physical temple.

    1. Thanks, Terry. I pray your message today went well. And I appreciate the encouragement so much. Your story sounds like one guided by the Spirit. I am glad God led you this way and we can at least know one another from a distance.

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