Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lent

On Christ the King Sunday last year, my pastor took a quick detour to the Parable of the Talents, where he asked us to consider that maybe the servant who buried the talent was the most faithful of the three. When the youth group was discussing it that evening, they characterized it as “Sticking it to The Man,” which I thought was pretty accurate. Ever since then I have had an ache in my heart, wondering how—and if—I ever Stick it to The Man. Or if I just ignore the parts of the Bible where Jesus calls us to be completely countercultural. Where he calls us to sacrifice everything (no, really, everything) to follow him. Where he calls us to abandon anything (Right. Anything) that keeps us from giving our hearts fully to him. Or if I am just like everyone else, Christian or non-Christian, who lives in relative comfort, not really rocking the boat, not really doing anything that screams, “Jesus is my Lord! I trust Jesus ALONE! Not money! Not stuff! Not anything else! Just Jesus!”

And I have to conclude that, really, there’s nothing about my life that says, “Look, I’m following a radical teacher who tells me that I have to be willing to give up everything to follow him. Nope. There’s really nothing that much different about me, except that I go to church several times a week and really think there’s no better way to talk theology than over a beer (because really, there isn’t). I’m good at talking theology. But my life is not radical.

I started thinking more about this radical obedience to Jesus when my youth did the 30-Hour Famine for World Vision. Then I started reading Richard Stearn’s book The Hole in Our Gospel. He’s the president of World Vision and has an incredible story to tell. He says that the hole in our gospel is that we skip over the part where Jesus tells us that whatever we’ve done to the least of these, we’ve done to him. And when we’ve turned our backs on the least of these, we’ve turned our backs on him too. And then my friend Jason posted this, which just made me sick to my stomach.

For these last months I have felt this ache in my heart, this unsettled feeling that there is something more to my life, to my family’s life, than this complicit participation in a world where 10 million children die in Africa each year because of preventable diseases. Where children in our own country look forward to getting their school breakfast on Monday morning because they’ve had nothing to eat since lunch on Friday. How dare I call myself a follower of Jesus in the midst of my own comfort and complacency.

During the next 40 days of Lent I will be doing what I’ve dubbed, “First World Subsistence Living.” During Lent I will only be consuming what I need. I will not buy clothing, home improvement “stuff,” cosmetics, Living Social/Groupon/SnagMob deals, or anything else that isn’t essential. I will not radically change the kinds of foods I consume, but I will be eating only what I need to eat. No desserts, no lattes, no snacks, nothing rich/decadent. If I go to restaurants I will eat simply: salads, small portions, etc. On Saturdays, when I usually allow myself to eat whatever I want without worrying about calories…I will fast from sunup to sundown. Someone asked me tonight how I will know what’s “nonessential” and my answer is that I will be accountable to myself. I will approach each situation with intentionality, keeping in mind the spirit of what I’m doing and why.

I trust that during this journey, which will also include lots and lots of prayer and scripture reading, I will have a clearer picture of how I (and my family) am to respond to the upside-down-world call of Jesus.

I’ll let you know how that works out.

3 comments:

Emily said...

Just found your blog! Love the non-essential idea. I almost want to change up my Lenten promise now...is that allowed? Ha! Hope all is well!

Sarah said...

I find it incredibly difficult. I like being comfortable and I don't particularly want to be radical. I'm reading a fantastic book at the moment called 'Chasing Francis' by Ian Morgan Crom - it's about Francis of Asissi and his commitment to simplicity for the sake of his spiritual wellbeing, and his commitment to the poor, and his relevance to the modern church. It's a novel about a very conservative evangelical pastor who essential loses his faith and tries to find a new faith. I think you might enjoy reading it during lent.

I am looking forward to hearing how it goes for you!

Mary Beth said...

Ooh, Sarah, thanks for the recommendation. I'll look for it in the library!