Even those vaguely familiar with the Lenten season know Lent as a time of self-denial. Many Christians spend this season denying (or improving!) themselves, as a keeping-in-mind of Christ’s death which concludes with an Easter remembrance of the resurrection of Christ. Common targets of Lenten self-denial include chocolate, soda, and other first-world amenities.
The irony of Lent is that us Christians work hard (or hardly work!) to deny ourselves through a season that ends with the cross and resurrection, then put self-denial in our rearview mirrors as soon as we have marked the events which harbor the only power through which we might in fact deny ourselves.
This aspect of Lent could lead a person to conclude a couple of things. First, that in the death and resurrection of Christ lies the conclusion of Christian self-denial. Since Christ has died and risen we can live however we want! Second, that the death and resurrection of Christ do not lead to and indeed compel lives of sacrifice and service. Christ’s death and resurrection have simply to do with an eternal future with God in heaven, and are divorced from ethical implications right here right now on earth!
Perhaps what Christians need is Lent after Lent. A Lent that is not designed to conjure up some sense of sobriety about Christ’s death, but is instead an impulsive living out of the victory of God expressed in the cross and resurrection.
I wonder if the petty targets of our typical Lent, trifles human beings all over the world live without nearly every day of their entire lives, might be replaced by more noble and deeper-seated self-giving. Where are the present-day heroes of Christianity? I’m not talking about political activists who work to get Christians to vote a certain way, or conference speakers who shame every Christian perspective but their own. Who is pouring themselves out in Christ-like sacrifice? Who is fighting an extraordinary battle against their own baser desires, or difficult life circumstances, or the sheer deadening weight of living?
Color me quirky. This year I intend to celebrate Lent after Easter. My soul cries out to discover what it means to give of myself because of the foundational vitality of Christ’s cross and resurrection. So I’ll be doing Lent beyond Lent.