Lent is Not a Hunger Strike

I didn't grow up with Lent.

Lent was a foreign concept reserved for the elderly Catholic women who walked past my house on their way to morning mass. I really didn't want any part of it, because Lent always sounded so desperate. A "holy" tradition which involved marking my face with ashes and giving up things I enjoy. When I heard people talking about lent, it was a conversation about going without, and sometimes, discussions about Lent began to sound like hunger strike. As in, I'm not going to consume caffeine until I get what I want... it's going to be hard... I want people to see me suffer and be miserable with me... I won't stop until God gives me what I want or until Easter Sunday, whichever comes first. I mean, let's not get crazy.

It was actually Dallas Willard's book, "The Spirit of the Disciplines," which helped me see the whole Lent thing in a different light. His work came at a really pivotal moment of growth in my life. The truth is, he was never talking about Lent specifically. Willard was talking about incorporating the spiritual disciplines into our everyday lives so they flow naturally from the core of who we are.

When I say "spiritual disciplines," I'm talking about solitude, meditation, communion, generosity, and stewardship... to name a few.


If the word "discipline" put you on edge, you are not alone. Discipline is not necessarily a fun word. It implies struggle and work and punishment. But, I like to think about it this way: athletes have discipline and I envy them for it. Good parents discipline their children so that those kids have a fighting chance of becoming valuable, productive, well-adjusted members of society. Doing the right thing takes a certain amount of concentrated effort. It takes discipline to become the people we really long to become. It just does.

Some of my favorite quotes are really about living a disciplined life: "Inspiration will find you, but it must find you working." -Pablo Picasso. Or, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi. Or, "Do small things with great love." - Mother Theresa.

Lent is one way to incorporate these ideas into our spiritual practice. And it is a practice. We are all working out our faith.

If Lent is not a hunger strike, it's also not about forcing ourselves to be totally uncomfortable for the better part of six weeks. Lent is not about outward or physical change, although this is exactly where we humans begin. The truth is, Lent is a season to clear out the clutter which stands in the way of our ability to be filled with more of the Spirit of God. Lent is a reminder that we are mortal, we are living on the earth as it hurtles through space, and yet we are not the center of it. But, the same power that keeps the earth spinning is available to us if only we would get out of our own way and humble ourselves enough to receive it.

This year, I will be reflecting on my own Lent journey here as well as writing more meditations for Lent as part of the worship service at the North End Collective. If you are in the Boise area, I hope you will consider this your invitation to join me there on Sunday's at 10:30. Or, you can pick up my little book on Amazon: A Walk in the Wilderness, meditations on a Lenten season.

And, if this is meaningful to you, I'd love to hear about your experiences as well. Leave a comment and share this with your friends as well.

This is Not the End,