Monday this week [February 26] the lead story in the Wall Street Journal’s Life & Arts section was “Is that Lenten Diet for God or for You?” The gist, if you may, of the article is a question I ask myself a lot. “Am I doing this for God or for me?” Is it really a Lent thing if my goal, really, is to loose 10 pounds?
I think we do this a lot. We have more than one reason for a lot of the things we do, don’t we? [You can answer honestly, I can’t hear you…] We do a lot of things that, on the surface, look like what we would call “good deeds.” Yet, under the surface we’re getting a kick-back for ourselves. In more “sinister” situations we might call this sort of thing “ulterior motives.” Now, don’t get all testy, we’ve all done it. Me too. In fact, we’ve all done it enough that most of us think just about everyone is really up to something we can’t see, at least on the surface. Cynically, we can start to think all things that look like good deeds have something of an ulterior motive.
When it comes to Lenten “disciplines,” this gets really tricky, as the article in the WSJ notes. The purpose of a Lenten discipline is to help you get closer to God, to lead to a deeper relationship with God. [Funny aside: I have a friend who gave up God for Lent. Yep. Gave up God. He spent Lent studying the objections to God by famous atheists. He came out of Lent with a more vigorous and articulate faith in God.] Here’s the crazy thing; our Lenten disciplines, the ones that really bring us closer to God, end up being things that make us better. They help us feel better, see the world more clearly, bring us peace. Crazy, huh? A really good Lenten discipline does make you a better you.
But in all of the complexities of the things relating to our relationship with God we need to either be prepared to 1. Start with God. Or 2. If you don’t start with God, be prepared to be reshaped in some significant way.
We’re about half-way through Lent. I hope things are going well with you. Whatever you’re doing this Lenten season is bringing you closer to God and reshaping you in unexpected ways.