It is now officially Lent. Now we begin a 40-day journey of self-denial. I don’t give up things for the season of Lent but I know people who do. I asked around and learned that this year’s most likely losers during Lent are chocolate, soda, complex carbohydrates, the Oxford comma, television, wine on weekdays and wine on weekends.
I also discovered a quiet contingent of Lent contrarians. They are adding a practice instead of depriving themselves of familiar pleasures. No matter what you choose to start or stop, the practice of intentionally making life more difficult on purpose is one way to know what it was like for Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness. Yet still, our forty is a meager approximation of desert dwelling. The difference between your forty days and Jesus’ is that we get to pick. The desert didn’t offer options to Christ.
I don’t mean to diminish our efforts to resist temptation. There is value in the practice of self-denial, but I’m not prepared to do forty days in the outside version of solitary confinement. And forty days without food, which would leave us teetering on the edge of death. And forty days without people, which would leave you alone with all the consequential questions, old regrets, and intolerable truths that a day full of small talk allows us to avoid. And forty days without someone making you feel necessary and valuable. If I don’t get to be worthy when people say that they need me, I might have to just sit there and listen to what my soul says it needs to survive.
Who goes there—to that place of cosmic quiet, like Jesus did—on purpose? Nobody.
We don’t go there on purpose, but one day, there we will be. It might not be for forty straight days. And you won’t discover that life put you there until you already arrived. No, it’s not fair. So maybe that’s why we should start practicing our desert walk now, to know we don’t need anything more than the provision of God’s grace to pass through.
See you Sunday,
Amos Disasa is the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. He previously served most recently as a co-pastor of Downtown Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Amos graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. He and his wife Sarah have two children.