Biola University is hosting this amazing Lent Project, and each day they give you scripture readings alongside music and videos, art and poetry. I love it. I love incorporating art into life and faith. Chad and I have started going through it each night together. In the introduction, there are three videos of talks given by theologian Julie Canlis about the meaning of Lent, and the first one really struck me. She describes how important Lent is in our current culture of constant distraction and instant gratification. She suggests we use Lent as a time to ask ourselves these questions about our lives:
Is this what I really want? Is this where I’m supposed to be giving all my time? Is this what I was created for? Why am I so busy? What is my busyness hiding? Why do I compulsively check Facebook? What false self have I created for my friends? Why don’t I care about anything anymore? Why don’t I really trust God? Why am I so desperate to be perfect and to appear perfect?
Julie went on to talk about deserts, meaning those times in our lives and our faith that feel empty or incomplete or disconnected. Desert times are those times when we feel lost or confused or inefficient, not enough. Spiritually, we often refer to deserts as times when we feel far away from God, and many attribute that to a sin that is creating the separation. But Julie says this:
“Deserts are not punishments. They are part of the geography of life in earth. They are part of living in a fallen world. Now our secular world has no patience for deserts. Deserts are always someone else’s fault. They’re due to some kind of miscalculation, or some lack that you should go buy something to make up for. No one should have to put up with deserts, says our consumer culture.”
I love that phrase, they are part of the geography of life in earth. Deserts are part of the natural landscape. And Julie goes on to say that these times of emptiness or disconnectedness really might be opportunities to mature and reflect, not moments of inefficiency. Becoming who you are supposed to be might mean going through a desert. It might mean being refined by tough circumstances. It might mean shaking you out of the comfortable so you stretch for something more. She says, “We have as much to gain by emptiness, as we have by fullness.”
Lent is about removing distractions and idols and the things that keep us comfortable, so that we can focus on the things we need to change. It’s not about depriving yourself for the sake of depriving yourself, but about making room for the things that are most important. It’s about focusing and preparing and changing and repenting. and renewing.