This weekend I got to spend some time in my garden.
I love our garden and so beginning to get it ready is a very exciting time for me. So Saturday I spent some time pulling up all the grass and the weeds which have accumulated over the last year.
You have to chase down roots and allow them to take you wherever you need to go to get rid of them. You get your hands dirty and your back sore.
It is the kind of tedious work I tend to avoid and despise. But I loved every second of it.
When you grow some of your own food, you have this relationship with it. You are connected to it and you care for it and then you even get to eat and enjoy it. So even the tedious work becomes exciting because you are preparing for something.
The difficult work of clearing out all the weeds and grass would be silly if it didn’t have a purpose behind it.
So we dig out the roots of all the junk and we begin to plant the seeds of the next round of crops.
As Allen mentioned in the readings this week, we often begin Lent with the sense of darkness and death and loss and sacrifice. But this week we begin to move into resurrection. We begin to see the signs of life bursting forth.
The dead people don’t stay dead.
Usually at this point in Lent, the fast is no longer trying and difficult. We are used to it. It may be irritating and we may want it to be over, but it is no longer the strain it was the first few weeks.
We have gone through the tedious part of it. We cleared out some weeds and hopefully saw some areas we need to work on.
Now it is time to plant.
The point of Lent is not simply to have a heavy discipline we put on ourselves for 40 days once a year. It’s not punishing the flesh or about arbitrary rules.
The point of Lent is to learn to live in new ways.
For Christians, death always leads to life.
Just like the garden. The weeds aren’t pulled simply because we want to be rid of weeds. The garden is cleared so there can be new life.
Discipline for the sake of discipline is not very meaningful. Discipline to help us learn new ways to live is transformative. It is about experiencing resurrection and life and freedom.
But sometimes we need to spend the extra difficulty rooting up the weeds.
Recently, I learned this process with how I eat.
I gained a bunch of weight when I moved to OKC so my wife and I did a weight loss system where you count points and read labels and over think everything you even smell.
After several months of doing this, we had re-patterned how we ate. We no longer needed to count points or read labels, it was just second nature. So we were eating in new ways in order to not gain weight.
After spending some time with some friends who eat extremely organically, we decided to better in this area as well. After all, we already considered what kinds of food we ate, so why not try to have a better relationship with what we eat?
And this has opened a whole new world. After changing the relationship we have with food, we are no longer eating simply to not gain weight. We are eating to enjoy. We buy certain kinds of food simply because we enjoy them better and feel better eating them. We are embracing rather than avoiding. I have never had this kind of freedom with food before.
Because of our choices, we don’t often eat things which cause us to gain weight, but as we changed our relationship to food and how we shopped, we are enjoying freedom and joy in what we eat. It is not stress about calories and points and carbs or even about weight. It is a fundamental change in relationship which has led to freedom and enjoyment.
Now I don’t say all this in an effort to change how you eat. I’m not all that concerned with what you eat.
I tell you this because this is the pattern we are seeking in Lent.
Lent is not about a particular kind of discipline. It is not even about how well you are doing staying faithful to your discipline. The point is the result of your discipline. Is it bringing more joy and freedom? Is it opening you up to better love and care for those around you?
These are the questions we need to be asking at this point in Lent.
We discipline ourselves heavily at first. We weed out the crap. We over think it all. We suffer from a lack of whatever it once was we thought we so desperately needed.
But we do this in order to help certain ways of living become second nature. It becomes a habit.
Once this way of doing things becomes second nature, we then begin change our relationship with the world, others, or ourselves. This is done with community and with the understanding some things actually do not lead us down the road of freedom and joy. But instead of trying NOT to do something, we begin to move into freedom and love and enjoyment in what we are doing. We embrace rather than avoid.
The point of Lent is not drudgery and brutal self-discipline.
The point is freedom and joy and love.
Just as the point of the cross is not death. It is resurrection.
So as we begin to wind down this Lenten season, we need to begin to think about new patterns.
The weeds are removed. Now is the time to plant. It is a time to reflect on not only what we have experienced during Lent, but about the ways in which we live.
In what areas do we need to change our relationship to something or someone? Have we chased what you want to change all the way to the root? What new ways of being and living do we want to adapt based on what we have learned over the past few weeks? What people have journeyed with us? What people are ahead of us in this journey? What should we learn to embrace?
What fruit do we want this Lenten season to bear?