Okay, My Liturgical Friends, Let’s Do Lent!
For reasons I attribute to God’s impeccable sense of humor, I am a Baptist with more than a few Catholic and Lutheran friends. Normally, when you get Catholics and Lutherans shoulder to shoulder, they fight wide-ranging wars where infidels are broken on the wheel and which end in a nice pot-luck and maybe a sing-along. However, when you toss a Baptist into their midst, they throw off long-standing religious rivalries and come together in one accord to convert the snake-handling, tongue-speaking, aisle-dancing, holy-rolling heathen.
I am not that kind of Baptist. I’m worse. I was raised Independent, Fundamental Baptist, which is to say I grew up viewing Southern Baptists as weak-spined conformists and Catholics as, to be delicate, the absolute worst. We’re like Puritans, but with more restrictive dress codes and less dancing. Over the years, I’ve softened a bit. I learned the difference between a doctrine and a standard, figured out why legalism isn’t much for me, got older and wiser, and learned a bit more about the Bible on my own. I also made friends with the aforementioned Catholics and Lutherans. As a result, my beliefs are more ecumenical than they were. In other words, I don’t handle snakes but neither do I think the Pope is the right-hand man of that Old Serpent.
So. While I’m not likely to convert to either faith (I said I got more ecumenical, not crazy-pants!) I’m attracted to the habits and traditions of liturgical worship. Tradition matters a great deal to me but as a way to focus my thoughts and as a way to tie there here and now to the honor, love, and faith of generations past. There is power in knowing the church in which you worship today is the church in which your grandfather worshiped and that you both worshiped the same way. It helps to know that you can, symbolically, borrow the strength and faith of those who came before you when you stand in the place they stood. There is also a lot to be said for spending more time on worship and less time on figuring out the how and when of worship. As a creature of habit, I dig that a lot.
Lent has intrigued me for a while. I can’t claim to know its full theological import, but I do know there is value in it for me. My friend April, of Friday Fiction reknown, wrote an excellent post on Lent for non-Catholics that helped me greatly. Here is how I see it. Lent is a season of self-reflection and self-denial. It is a time during which we seek, in some small way, to emulate Jesus, who voluntarily submitted to torture and death to save us from our own stupid, prideful selves. During Lent, we remove at least one great pleasurable distraction from our lives in order to better focus on the undeserved service God’s only son rendered to us because he loved us.
That, I think, is worthy of my time even if I am a crazy-eyed Baptist who wouldn’t know a baptismal font from a drinking fountain. This year, I’m going to take the plunge and observe Lent as best I’m able.
The pleasurable distraction I’ll lay aside for a while is Twitter.
Oh, I hear you out there. Twitter isn’t that big a deal! Except, for me, it is. I love social media and Twitter is the biggest star in my social media constellation. I love learning, in a matter of minutes, what’s going on in the world. I love being in contact with friends all over the globe. I am not willing to say I’m addicted to Twitter, but that’s what all addicts say, isn’t it? Twitter is the thing I do when I should be doing something else, the program that’s open on my desktop computer when I’m writing or watching a hockey or baseball game, the plug that connects me to the world (for better or worse).
It’s time I unplugged from it for a while.
After midnight tonight, I’ll delete my Twitter app from my phone and tablet and dump the bookmark from my browser. My account will still tweet links to the work I’m doing elsewhere, like stories and the very cool Shannara recaps at Phantom Sway, as well as useful links I may send to Buffer betimes, but I won’t be there. It’s okay. Leaving Twitter isn’t like getting eaten by an alligator. The world won’t grind to a halt without my silly little tweets. The twittersphere won’t miss me nearly as much as I’ll miss it.
In the meantime, I have plenty to do — more time in the Bible and in prayer, more dedication to the career change I should have made five years ago, more focus on being the best man I can be, more stories. Lots to do, you see? You can help me, if you like, by sharing your Lenten experiences here in the comments. I’d appreciate them; they’ll be helpful.
When I go back to Twitter, just in time for Easter perhaps, I’ll be a little better, a little more focused, a little more in tune with what the Almighty has in store for me. If that all happens, I’ll have my Catholic and Lutheran friends to thank for it.