Lent is negative. Not inherently, but in the way that it is often perceived and practiced.
Lent is giving things up. Lent is subtraction. Negation. And this practice can be very good. I’ve given things up for Lent and it’s been a beneficial discipline.
But this year, I’m not giving anything up. Instead, I’m doing something. I’m committing to a positive action, one that will certainly last the entire 40 days of this holy season.
I’m writing a book.
But even as I write this post in my new and newly reorganized office (an important, and positive, discipline for those of us who write and also have ADD), I realize that this positive action has negative implications. That is, to do this thing I will actually have to give up doing other things. Essential to committing to this action is the negation of others.
For instance, I know that I’m not going to be able to watch much TV, especially the dramas I love to absorb and study and analyze. They are art to me, and a kind of life’s work in themselves (as well as genuine recreation). Which is to say, I’m not a binge-watcher in any unserious sense.
Really, the only show I’m going to allow myself during this literary Lenten journey is The Walking Dead on Sunday nights – and that because a) Sundays are for feasting, even during Lent; and b) I’m writing a book called After the Apocalypse, so…research!
There will be other areas of negation too – emotionally, I am immersed in that often dark space of exploring past experiences and mining them for gold that may help those who read the book. That means some of life’s exuberance will be absorbed in prayerful reflection, in lament, in examination, in surrender. The usual social and communal joy will be absorbed by the cavetime of reflective writing.
A fast, to be sure.
To be honest, I also realize that blogging will be an area of negation during this season – a decrease if not a total fast. Like I’ve mentioned before, the momentum will be slow in building over here, though rest assured it will come. I am not a bottomless well, and my creative capacity must be directed towards the commitment that I’ve made. But I shall return, and probably like a flood, once that season dissipates.
Which brings me back, I guess, to Lent in general. What if the giving up by which we typically identify the season was replaced by an emphasis on positive action – which, if only by implication, includes the negations as well? Committing to an action is energizing. I am beyond stoked to write this book. And the good things that must be given up are more meaningful for the positive goal of sacrificing them.
Maybe you can do something similar this season, committing to a concrete action as the Lord leads.
Maybe you can keep a positive, and holy, Lent.