I love the Christian Church and feel deeply at home there. But if you had asked me 20 years ago about my experience of the liturgy and the Church calendar, I would have mainly confirmed THE BIG 2: Christmas and Easter. I probably also would have added in Mother’s Day and the Patriotic American holidays, because that’s just what good conservative evangelicals do, right? Jesus certainly loved his mom–there is biblical evidence for that! Pentecost? No, too much Holy Spirit, and people get all weird if we start invoking that. Ordinary Time–gee that sounds exciting. Lent and Advent? Oh yeah, we had too much lent stuck in the advent on our dryer once and had to call a repairman.
Holy days and seasons of remembering God’s pursuit of and intervention with His creation have historically been a built-in-to-the-year part God’s people. This is our privilege, not our obligation.
Over the years of ministry, my soul has been drawn deeper into the rhythm of the Christian calendar. It makes increasing sense why, as an alternative community, the people of God draw strength from segueing off of the civic calendar. In particular, the days leading up to the Incarnation (Advent) and to the Resurrection (Lent) have become a meaningful discipline in my life and family. It seems everything–shopping, food, information, sex, books, gaming, entertainment, and more–has become so available for instantaneous gratification. Spiritual formation as a disciple takes time. And it’s messy. Jesus didn’t microwave 12 guys into apostles. And they weren’t done growing when he ascended either.
I really do think most believers want to grow in Christ, but I’m also convinced that if we could find sanctification on Amazon Prime we’d pay extra for overnight shipping and check that goal off of our list.
I wonder if we are losing the ability to long for something hopeful. There is beauty that arises in waiting. It’s in the waiting where Christ reveals to us the things He is asking us to surrender in our hearts.
This was no elaborate journaling exercise, but over the season of Lent, in a phone App, I kept track of my discoveries:
1. The things that irritate me about others are reflections of related issues He needs to carve out of my own heart.
2. If I didn’t invest in younger believers, my spiritual growth would be stagnant at best and moving backwards at worst.
3. I want so much more than I need.
4. I need extended solitude to be restored. I’m talking utter silence, without the possibility of my phone dinging or the temptation to check social media. The sound of the breeze or chirping of a bird is acceptable noise. Anything other than that and I cannot hear Him.
5. I have a hard time savoring the wonder of a common moment–like doing homework with one of my children–without experiencing a sense of urgency over what I need to do next. Why would I be irritated by a blessing?
6. Fasting teaches me about “enough.” This lesson spills over into multiple areas of life. This is not about strength building, but about Christ’s power mysteriously changing selfishness into contentment.
7. Relationships do not thrive amidst multi-tasking. Just like my marriage needs intentionally planned times for reconnection, I take the presence of Jesus for granted without deliberately orchestrating sabbath experiences to enjoy Him.
I would love to hear what you learned!