Why I Don’t Do Lent by Louise Jackson

I never give up anything for Lent and I don’t do anything extra either. It isn’t that I’m not mindful of the liturgical emphasis and what it represents; I am. But I simply don’t get the idea that it’s good to give up something or start doing something for only forty days. Perhaps it’s partly my Southern Baptist background, one in which we jokingly said, “This year I’m giving up watermelon for Lent,” all the time knowing that, in the days before international importation of out-of-season fruit, watermelon wasn’t available anyway. Or, perhaps it’s my “Martha personality” that finds positive action to be better than self-denial and that now is better than later.

It has always seemed to me that if something is important enough to give up for a season, we probably ought not to be doing it in the first place. And if something is important enough to do for a season, we ought to be doing it all year long.

Even as I say this, I admit to having deep respect for those to whom denial is a means for spiritual growth. Good for you. Go right ahead. Just know that I won’t be there.

I simply don’t feel, personally, that even ritual self-flagellation has any particular value for my soul. Instead, it seems to me that one ought to examine one’s lifestyle on a continuous basis and not wait for a liturgical season to suddenly decide to “be better.” To the extent that I am able, I try to focus on what I ought to be and to do as a professing Christian every day, all year long. Why wait for Lent? If I need to give up something in my life, it’s up to me to get busy and learn to give it up. If I ought to be doing more as a Christian, I should begin to do it now. Otherwise, why bother, just because it’s a custom?

Thus, I will worship each Sunday with intent, bearing in mind the upcoming Passion of Jesus the Christ, but I will not consider the 40 days of Lent to be anything more than a reminder that living a Christian life is not always easy but is infinitely worth the daily effort, 365 days a year.

P.S. I expect, and even invite, rebuttals to this short essay. Please take the time to argue, agree or comment.

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One thought on “Why I Don’t Do Lent by Louise Jackson

  1. Louise, I agree with you – even though I have “gone along with the custom” on-and-off for half a century (sometimes willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming). I have found myself as part of various tribes of Christians, and have gone along with the tribe, I guess. I find your directness refreshing.

    I think, though, that for back-sliders like me (who don’t always maintain spiritual practices all year long) that Lent does represent a time to take a kind of spiritual inventory. What am I doing that I wasn’t doing last Lent, and what am I not doing that I *was* doing a year ago? How is this working out for me? The season of Lent (for me, anyway) can be a time of stirring-up and renewal – kind of like running the roto-tiller through the garden.

    It all depends on how I go at it, though. It’s important to know the difference between a custom, a habit, and a ritual. The things that build meaning, for me, are worthwhile. The things that I go through “just because” have always been a waste of time.

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