Lent: It's For Everyone
"The season meant to remind us that we are askew, and our askewness has askewed the world."
Lent for Those Who Don’t Lent
This is a letter for the masses, for those who have stumbled across my writing somewhere along the way and thought, “I’ll give this guy a shot.” Some found me through my books, some through social media, some through my website, some through an email forwarded by your friend or coworker or nana (who thought I might convince you to lay off the bottle). You are an eclectic bunch of readers, and on the faith front, you tend to fall into one of three categories.
Category 1: Those committed to faith, particularly of the Christian variety in all its many colors, sub-particularly those with a more liturgical, sacramental bent.
Category 2: The wandering questioners who desperately want the old Christ story to ring true even if the old Christ hasn’t come through for you just yet.
Category 3: The outright doubters or deconstructionists or deniers (or whatever) who read along here for some heretofore unspecified reason. (I might love you best, but don’t tell the others).
This being the case, each time I write a letter about any Christian practice, I recognize the risk that my words might fall flat for some. And on occasion, my words might burn a little, especially for those who’ve been battered, bruised, or abused by the faith-bearing set. I get that, and truth be told, with all the faith-bearing folks being outed these days for their HPTFU (“Human Propensity to *Eff* Things Up” as Francis Spufford wrote), I don’t much blame you for throwing a side-eye or a middle finger in my general direction.
Still, hang with me.
It is Lent, the 40-day penetential season in which the faithful come to grips with our own brokenness (death, sin, dustiness, HPTFU, whatever). It’s a season meant to remind us that we are askew, and our askewness has askewed the world. And if we are to believe God resides in the world, then Lent is our opportunity to make this simple confession: Our askewing has wounded God.
This is not, of course, a joyous thought, but then again, if Lent were a book, it wouldn’t be called The feel good beach read of the summer. It would be a literary offering with a complex protagonist (us) who runs off with a lover only find the whole affair tempestuous and regrettable. For forty days (Lent), the protagonist laments the decision before a singular question rattles around in his noggin: Is return possible? The final scene is Easter, the great return of the prodigal philanderer (us) to the wounded spouse, who waits with a love that covers a multitude of things.
This is the most human way I know to describe Lent. A time to reflect on our philandering, our askewing, and to return. Perhaps you identify.
Those of you in Categories 2 and 3 might not yet be willing to return all the way just yet. You might not even believe in the spouse who waits with a forgiving, covering love. But still, if you’re an honest human, you understand the ways of a wayward heart. You know the ways your own mouth, hands, and feet have wounded others, yourself, the environment. So, if you’re one of these honest humans, consider the next forty-six days your opportunity to stop whisper some simple words: I’m sorry.
Extend an apology to someone you might have wounded with your words. Extend an apology to yourself for the ways you’ve beaten yourself half-to-death. Extend an apology to the wind for the ways you might (just maybe) have discounted the possibility of Divine Love. (And if you’re in Category 1, the devout Christian set, consider whispering an apology to Christ himself.) And as you practice for these forty days, see what happens. See if you don’t discover some deeper sort of truth, something like the love of a spouse waiting to welcome you home.
A Few Announcements
A few bullets I’d like to shoot:
Many of you have been following “A Drink With a Friend,” the collaborative podcast I cohost with Tsh Oxenreider. We’ve begun a new Substack, where you can have access to all the episodes, and where you’ll have access to future BONUS CONTENT. Signup. I think you’ll like what we’re doing.
I’m getting very close to finishing Bears in the Yard, the novel I’m releasing to my Substack monthly subscribers. Want to read along? Signup here.
If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Book of Waking Up: Experiencing the Love that Reorders a Life for Lent, you should. It’s the perfect companion for the waking season of Lent.
A Photograph (I Do Love Instagram)
I’m grateful each of you allows me in your inbox. If you’ve enjoyed this letter, I’d love to hear from you. (Feel free to use the comment section below.) And finally, remember—sharing is caring.