Lent: Staying AwakePosted: February 22, 2012
“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more to remain awake.” ~C.S. Lewis
That’s the quote my pastor selected as the “thought before worship” this Sunday, an interesting thought to consider on Transfiguration Sunday, when we remember the blatant revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to Peter, James, and John. I never before noticed how stark the juxtaposition is between this Sunday and the following Wednesday: Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a season in which we practice solemnity and self-discipline, bearing in mind Christ’s own suffering. It, of course, ends with the biggest celebration of the Christian year–Christ is risen!–but perhaps the glory of the Transfiguration is part of the Lenten story, too. The Transfiguration is a brief burst of holiness, an event that leaves Jesus’ disciples speechless or babbling. It reminds us that God walks among us, even when He walks incognito. Like Christ’s painful walk to Calvary between Palm Sunday and Easter, like our own stumbling journeys between Eden and eschaton, our somber Lenten path is bracketed by unavoidable inbreaks of the presence of God–events that would startle even the soundest sleeper awake. One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The challenge is to stay awake now, to remember Jesus transfigured even when He’s walking beside us, invisible.
I’ve identified two especially challenging barriers to my own everyday wakefulness, and this Lent I’m going to see what happens when I mindfully regulate them:
#1–The internet, specifically, T.V.
It’s far too easy (at least, for me) to hop on the computer and end up wasting hours browsing Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc, not to mention the amount of time I spend watching T.V. on Netflix or Hulu every night. T.V. is my go-to activity when I’m tired and don’t want to think–I recently realized, to my chagrin, that I consistently follow nine shows, and that’s not even counting older seasons of other shows I watch when nothing new is on. Goodbye for Lent, T.V. (except for when I’m watching socially–trust me, the vast majority of my T.V. time is solitary). And I can’t really avoid the internet when I’m at work, but during Lent I’m going to stay offline when I’m at home. What will I do with my hours of free time on weeknights now? I have no clue, but I’m going to have to figure it out. I’m hoping to develop more contemplative spiritual practices.
T.V. and food often go together. I eat when I’m bored, or when my brain’s turned off (sound like prime T.V. watching time to you?). Or I read while I eat my meals, totally oblivious to what I’m doing. This means I often overeat, which is both unhealthy and wasteful. So during Lent I’m getting rid of my food of choice–junk food (it’s much easier to binge on chocolate or potato chips than on veggies!). I want to be more aware of what I’m doing when I eat, so I’m also going to try to pray before I eat anything, thanking God for His provision, for the next forty days. We are ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but in a time and place of abundantly available food it’s easy to forget that we are fundamentally dependent on God to sustain us.
So those are my Lenten intentions. May I emerge celebrating Easter more wakefully.
- reading T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday.
- writing a piece explaining the seasons of the Church for one of my Institute teachers to use in her New Testament class. She requested I do so after our long conversation about Lent and the Church calendar last night.
- preparing to guide my 56 Club (fifth and sixth grade youth group at my church) kids through the church’s Ash Wednesday service tonight (and planning for a BBQ on Sunday!).