Friday, March 09, 2007

Frittered Away

"Our lives are frittered away by details. Simplify, simplify!"
-Henry David Thoreau

I decided this year that for Lent I wanted to focus on prayer. For me, ironically, that begins with reading. I draw a lot of direction from what I'm reading, and I've got a few books on prayer sitting on the shelf that I've been meaning to read for a while now, as well as a couple that I'd like to re-read. And hopefully somewhere in there I'll manage to actual pray more too.

But we're over two weeks into Lent, and I'm just now getting started. I had previous commitments to teach classes on Luke and Acts, and I've been leading a discussion on The Evangelizing Church, not to mention my congregation is beginning a capital campaign and I volunteered for one of the early roles, so my reading program hasn't managed to get underway, and predictably my increased practice of prayer has also failed to materialize.

Helpfully, before Lent I managed to work in a reading of Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent which has given me some perspective. Schmemann talks about Lent as a journey. It's not just a season of penance, it's a season of moving toward something -- specifically moving toward Pascha, the Ressurrection. And so, it should be a season of stripping away, not holding off.

Typically, certainly for myself, and I suspect for most people, Lent is a season where you start off with great intentions, go through a couple of weeks demonstrating your ascetic powers and then gradually discover how weak you really are and can't wait for Easter so you can give up the charade. There's definitely a sort of spiritual value to that. It's real.

But Father Schmemann's model works somewhat more directly. You begin by looking at yourself and looking for your weaknesses and then trying to intentionally strip away the pretension. And rather than seeing the fast as some sort of spiritual accomplishment, it's the pressure that holds your feet to the fire, so to speak.

And so the business of my life these first two weeks serves as a sort of object lesson. What is it that's keeping me from God? It's not life, per se, because surely life is the field where God meets us. But very likely it's all that I'm trying to stuff into life.


Dave Richards said...

This is really an interesting post...thanks for sharing this with was quite interesting to read and thanks for sharing your thoughts...and well Easter is coming up do drop by my blog on Easter Greetings sometime and check out all that i've posted there!!!

David said...

Good post. "Giving up for Lent" or even adding a lenten discipline usually ends up equating to nothing more than another failed New Year resolution of sorts. That is why I avoid such behaviors for the most part. If I do begin a lenten discipline, it usually is something like what you did, add a prayer regimin or something....with much the same results I might add. I'll have to check out this book....thanks.

Andy said...

Hi David. Thanks for stopping by.

New Year resolutions is a good analogy to the typical Lenten practice.