Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spirit-Led Lent

When the season of Lent began, I felt the call - and desire - to write again. To do this, I've tried to blog every day (except Sundays) these past five weeks. I'll be's been quite a challenge. I hadn't written anything in nearly a year, so to go from there to writing (and publishing) daily was going from a dry spell to a downpour overnight.

It's been a challenge to write from desire rather than duty too. If I sit down at the keyboard and feel angst about what I'm doing, then I try to walk away. However, I have also had to resist the temptation to give up. Instead, I have to tune in to the Spirit's movement...when I am writing, what I am writing, why I am writing.

On Conversations Journal's blog, Chuck Conniry wrote a thoughtful post entitled "Lenten Angst." It was a timely reminder of what Lent is all about and why we adopt any kind of Lenten practice. Here's a excerpt:

Lent invokes a tug-of-war between our better and worse selves—a tug-of-war to which we would otherwise be oblivious. “The flesh” is that part of our sinful selves that salvation has dethroned but not destroyed. Whenever our flesh goes unchallenged, we are at rest—at home in our less-than-noble selves, blissfully unaware of the spiritual apathy that is silently suffocating our souls. And whenever we apply pressure to the flesh, the struggle commences anew.

In the season of Lent (and in Lenten-like moments throughout the rest of the year), we are drawn from the troughs of slumbering indifference toward new peaks of spiritual vibrancy. But this process is not painless, and the route from trough to peak is hardly intuitive. It produces what we could call “Lenten angst” – a phenomenon that occurs whenever we apply pressure to the flesh.

This is precisely the point at which Lent poses its greatest risk. Like the default setting on my Internet browser, my first inclination is to seek to overcome the flesh through my own (fleshly) effort. My friend’s question—actually my visceral reaction to his question—alerted me to my own Lenten angst, which is nothing other than the product of my unwitting (and ill-fated) attempts to will myself to a higher spiritual plane.

Paul recalibrates our spiritual settings when he says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, trust the Holy Spirit to bear the appropriate fruit in your life (cf. vv. 22-25).

Rightly understood, Lent puts us in a space in which we make ourselves available to the ongoing transformative work of the Spirit. It reorients our interest to things spiritual—and challenges us to lean on the Spirit whenever we feel the creep of Lenten angst.
I have certainly found Mr. Conniry's words to be true as I've practiced the discipline of writing throughout Lent. When I try to make myself write, I am rendered mute. When I make myself available, the Spirit can move in me and through me, can speak to me and through me, and can sustain me and equip me.

No comments: