IVP - Strangely Dim - Re:Lentless

April 6, 2010


Lent is, traditionally, thought to be a time of reflection. This year, however, I find myself reflecting on Lent after the fact. This is a consequence of circumstance: I'm currently "between churches," and my churchlessness left me this year in a state of relative Lentlessness.

It's now Easter, of course--a happier time for Christians, however sad their current state of churchlessness makes them. Lent is now a done deal, which means thinking about Lent is less a crisis of faith and more a "teachable moment."

Lent was weird from the beginning this year, and it ended as uncomfortably as it began. In the past, I've marked Ash Wednesday by getting marked--by having someone I know well look me in the eye while smearing the ashes of last year's Palm Sunday palm fronds onto my forehead and whispering conspiratorially to me, "Remember you are dust." This year, while the fact of Ash Wednesday was not lost on me, the experience of it was; instead of being marked as an icon of Christ's suffering, I sat at home and watched American Idol.

And then, before I knew it, along came Holy Week. I spent the evening of Good Friday with non-churchgoing visiting family members in a comedy club being consoled by the performer that it was OK to be there with "all the other heathens." Well-intended friends tried to pietize our entertainment choice with the thought that "that's probably where Jesus would be." No, on Good Friday Jesus would not be in a comedy club; on Good Friday Jesus would be on a cross.

Being between churches, my wife and I struggled to decide how to mark Easter, with what community we would share the good news that "Christ is risen--he is risen indeed." We opted for a large church in our community that has a decidedly more traditional mode of worship than we're generally accustomed to; we got there late and sat in the last row of the overflow; we sang the Hallelujah chorus under our breath, as the folks all around us seemed to think that singing in an overflow room was unseemly.

Over the course of this year's Lenten season we've visited a number of wonderful churches with wonderful people doing wonderful things in their communities. But we were never not visitors, never not outside observers--never not critics. Oh, we were gracious critics, I promise you, recognizing the good in each fellowship. But we were critics nonetheless--too wise to the ways and wiles of church ministry to marvel at the sheer oddity of so many people coming together on a weekly basis to sing, pray and learn together; too spiritually sophisticated to be awestruck by the integrity between the life of Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament and the realities of contemporary everyday life; too jaded, in short, to be moved. 

This, brothers and sisters, is not how Lent is intended to be lived. Lent is a time in which we prepare our hearts for the gravity of Good Friday and the ebullience of Easter. During Lent we face the disillusionment of ourselves in order to be reminded afresh of the grace of deliverance from our sins. During Lent people give things up or take things on in order to make room in their hearts for a fuller, truer, purer understanding of the saving work of Christ. This Lent it could be argued that I gave up being a part of the church. Now that we're in the season of Easter, here's to hoping I can take it back up again.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at April 6, 2010 3:11 PM Bookmark and Share


I hope you can. Enjoyed your words and sharing where you are.

Comment by: winn collier at April 6, 2010 6:50 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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