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Lent Resolution Nonsense

This Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, we transition from the season of Epiphany into the season of Lent. (Because the date of Easter is so early this year (March 27!), and because Lent begins 40+ days before, Ash Wednesday comes early this year -- it's this upcoming Wednesday, February 10th).

So it's a good time to make our Lenten resolutions, starting by asking ourselves, "When it's Easter Sunday and Lent is over, how will I know if my Lent has been successful? - how will I know if I've had a 'good' Lent?"

A good Lent starts with good Lenten resolutions: self-examination and repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on God's holy word.

I hope you don't buy into the nonsense that we should only "take things on" instead of "give things up" for Lent.

It's nonsense because it's a false distinction: on the one hand, to "take something on" is, by definition, to give something up. If you take on daily Bible reading, you're giving up daily web-surfing or television or an extra half hour of sleep. If we take on self-examination, we're giving up self-indifference or self-cluelessness. If we take on repentance (reversing course) we're giving up an insistence to continue along the same self-destructive path we're on. If we take on prayer, we're giving up worry and ingratitude. To take on reading and meditating on God's holy word is to give up a myopic world view where today's sins and sorrows and stresses seem unique.

And on the other hand, because nature (and your soul) abhors a vacuum, to "give something up" is by definition to take something on. To give up alcohol (anesthesia) is to take on sobriety and to feel, for 40 days, the full range of our emotions -- higher highs and lower lows. (Which is scary, particularly if we've been numbing our emotions for decades; no wonder we reach for the bottle and continue pretending we don't have a problem.) To give up sugar (or dairy or meat or other fats) is -- because we seem hard-wired for pleasure -- to take on fruits and berries, or cooking new recipes, or trying that new vegetarian restaurant. God spare us a lugubrious Lent.

God spare us a lugubrious Lent because Lent is about more than rules, or even new inspiration. In the light of the Transfiguration, the Gospel story we hear this Sunday, your Lent and my Lent will be a success, if by the end of it, our faces glow: our countenances change.

Our countenances change when we spend more time in the loving, "do not be afraid" presence of God: more time in prayer, worship, and serving others.

So our Lent will be a success if, by Easter Sunday, we act differently and look differently, not because we're still resolving to act and look different...but because we ARE different; we're metamorphoĆ³-ed: transfigured. Transformed.

What are you giving up, and therefore taking on, this Lent? Comments welcome.

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