February 22, 2016
"The believer sees error, and believes in truth, sees guilt and believes in forgiveness, sees death and believes in eternal life- or sees nothing and yet believes in the work and grace of God." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “the sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” To me, that is the sign, not just of intelligence, but also of the Christian faith. As Paul wrote and as many scholars after him have reiterated: we are a people who are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; we are unknown, yet well known; we are dying, and behold, we live (2 Corinthians 6). The Christian faith asks us at every turn to hold two truths – the reality of the sinful world as it is, and the reality that it has and is and will all be redeemed through Christ to its original perfection.
Lent is a time when I feel these truths intersect the most in the church calendar. It is a season of what my church calls “bright sadness”. We look forward to the celebration of Easter – to spring and to new life- but we look forward to this while still existing day-to-day in the slowly lengthening days of winter.
When I was in college I would fast each Wednesday during the six weeks of lent. Wednesdays were my long days, and I had back-to-back classes until 8pm, so while it was a good way to stay busy while fasting, the hunger pangs were very strong during my last class of the day. If you know me at all, you know fasting is the absolute hardest of the spiritual disciplines for me. When I am hungry my attitude goes downhill fast, so needless to say I was not a dream to be around during my 7pm class on Wednesdays during lent.
It was my habit to break my fast at sundown on Wednesdays, but I was usually so tired from walking home after a long day of classes that I would just eat the first thing I could find in my dorm room and crash for the night. This happened for a few weeks in a row until I changed my walking route home from class- instead of taking my usual walk, I detoured to walk by a burger place on campus. The first time I broke a Wednesday fast with a double cheeseburger, my life changed.
Soon it became a ritual to get my sundown cheeseburger after Wednesday night class, and my attitude slowly shifted. Instead of being miserable during class when I felt weak and hungry, the pain reminded me of my delicious indulgence that was right around the corner. The hungrier I got throughout the day, the more excited I got about the double cheeseburger waiting for me on the walk home. I was suddenly pleasant, energized, and found it easier to do my work in my evening class because I knew that this incredible treat was in my near future.
This is lesson of lent. When we fully embrace the truth that Christ has redeemed all things, and that the world will be made right by His righteousness in the end, we act differently in the here and now. Each time we see or experience pain, each time we feel weak, it can spur us on to work toward goodness and righteousness now.
This is why we do what we do at CARE for AIDS. We see death around every corner, we see disease, we see pain, we see families being torn apart by a disease with no known cure. But we work against it day in and day out, because we know thats what Jesus would be doing. Even when we fail, or when clients don't make it, or when the challenges seem insurmountable, we work toward goodness and righteousness.
As Paul writes from prison: "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ." (Philippians 3:14)
My prayer is that we learn to live as an Easter people throughout the long, cold waiting period of lent, and that we always stay hungry and let our pain urge us on to good works for His glory.
During this season of lent we want to invite you to join us in prayer around specific topics. We have created a prayer guide that you can access here.