Holy Discontent

| — Rev. Brandon Dirks — |

Holy Discon-Lent

1 Comment

I am discontent with Lent. For the first time ever. And I’m not sure why.

Lent seems to be a poor-knock off to the Advent season that builds up to Christmas. There are Christmas carols, decorations, bright colors, twinkling lights, Charlie Brown specials, Christmas pageants, Cantatas, Candlelight services…all culminating in a glorious Christmas morning full of joy and wonder and good cheer. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get through Advent (otherwise known as December to me) to get to Christmas. So, I approached Lent the same way. Lent was just another precursor ‘that I had to get through’ in order to get to the good stuff…Easter.

I have missed the point. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understood the point. I just missed it. I understood that Lent is a time for repentance, a metanoia or a turning around or changing one’s mind. I could easily parrot the Sunday School answer that Lent is a time where we are to give up the ‘bad stuff’ we do and try to refocus on Godly things. But I never did it…really.

Of course I knew that Lent was something more than that stuff that collects in your belly button.

But, I never embraced Lent. I could never get why Lent was so important.

Until now.

This year, I wanted to address the Lent that asks believers to embrace selfdenial. Oh, not the kinds of menial self-denial like giving up chocolate, or caffeine, or desserts. Nor did I make a cursory commitment about exercising more, going to church every week, praying daily or giving more money.

I wanted to try to deny myself.

I wanted to give up a lifestyle that was based on myself first. I committed to a six week practice that whenever I was faced with a choice, I would not choose the one that would benefit me. I envisioned the basics…only enough food to sustain myself—no seconds, no desserts, no ‘extras.’ Then it grew to include how I would spend my time—if someone—anyone—asked anything of me, my answer would be yes (a la the movie “Yes, Man”). I would play more games with my kids, take walks with my wife, help people move, speak to a stranger on the street. I would get in the longer lines at the stores. I would not spend money on myself. On and on…but the basic idea…when faced with a choice, I would not choose myself.


The result?

I failed. And failed miserably.

And yet, I have never felt closer to Christ. I have never felt a deeper sense of trust in Jesus’ promises of the abundant life. In my failure, I gained a sense that I indeed can do all things through Christ—ONLY through Christ—who gives me strength.

Why? Because I discovered that no matter how hard I try, I cannot fully deny myself. No matter how much I want to choose others, or choose Christ—I will always fail. No matter how much I truly want to love God with ALL my heart, soul, mind and strength, and love others…I cannot do it—ON MY OWN.

 I need God in my life to truly experience the riches of selflessness in a world and a culture and a human condition teeming with selfishness. I need Christ’s complete obedience to God to fill in the tremendous gaps of my disobedience. I need Jesus’ strength to face every obstacle, every problem, every downturn, every stumbling block—with hope.

I am not only convinced now more than ever that it is not possible to save ourselves with good works, I now have experienced why. I simply cannot be good enough, pray enough, read enough scripture, love others enough, give enough money, or deny myself enough to truly understand the meaning of Easter. I just cannot do what it takes God to do.

It is only when I realize what I can’t do, that I realize what Jesus did.

Lent taught me that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try—I am a selfish human being…and will always be. I hate that about myself. But thank God– Jesus doesn’t.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us.”


Easter is here. Hallelujah!


One thought on “Holy Discon-Lent

  1. Hey, how bout that…..You are human. I have had the “Lent Discontent” for some time. Maybe growing up Moravian (you know, real protestants), we never gave up “things” (that was reserved for the Catholics). I understand it is a time for me to draw closer to God, to increase my prayer life, etc, but I have the same problems with the Lenten season as I do with fasting. I can do it, but don’t find my self doing what is intended of the exercise (probably why I don’t run marathons).

    It was only recently that the whole idea of “giving something up” was even pondered by me. I’m not sure God really wants us to arbitrarily deny ourselves. I think he probably wants us to be happy, focus on the Kingdom, and help others, right?

    Anyhow, take-home is really what you said…..we (alone) can’t. We remain human. Only God can.

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