Doing Nothing for Lent

In the midst of a tremendously busy week at the tail-end of a busier than usual February, I write this Pastor’s Perspective leaning toward a blogpost I read today from The Jesuit Post, called “A Not-So-Radical Proposal for Your Lenten Season: Do Nothing.” In it, Jake Braithwaite wrote,

I’m really interested in the way technology has warped our relationships with our true selves. I’m talking about the selves that show up when we’re all alone, in front of God, no masks. Because we’re liable to be “on” at all times, we rarely take a moment to be still. We’re loathe to take a moment to know God and to let God know us.

And so I’ve been very interested in a new book by Jenny Odell called How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. She describes a world where “every last minute” ends up “captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily.” But in the midst of push notifications and likes and friend requests, a “certain nervous feeling, of being overstimulated and unable to sustain a train of thought, lingers.”

Before you decide to give up candy or french fries or even Facebook, (for Lent) I encourage you to take Odell’s advice: do nothing. Rather than optimize your Lent with a waistline-conscious fast or a bold test of your willpower, simply take time each day to do nothing. Sit before the Lord, let God marvel at you as you marvel at God. Maybe even while you’re eating french fries.

Now Myranda, who always challenges

herself with a disciplined fast during Lent, might scoff at that notion, but I do think there’s some

critique there we should heed. Our “Lenten Disciplines” need to be surrounded by silence and stillness. The fertile ground of Sabbath is where these seeds of growth best take root. That’s not to say you

shouldn’t have any “fast” for Lent, but instead to remember to fill the recently vacated spaces and times when you would be partaking in whatever you’re fasting from, and fill that space with, well….space. Invite God’s activity and presence in your Lenten discipline by giving God some

breathing room.

Looking back on a February full of justice-focused sermons and actions that usually took place all together as a church family, I look forward to a

March that has more room for personal discipline and inward-focused spiritual growth. This is the constant “tension” we must keep in our lives of faith. It’s not a bad tension, it’s the tension of a guitar string that produces music. We are not so inward-focused that we put blinders on to the world around us, and we are not so outward-

focused that we neglect the roots of that justice ethic in our own very particular experience of

mercy and grace. The Book of Discipline makes the harmony very clear.

“For Wesley, there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. The

communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth, they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world….Our struggle for human dignity and social reform have been a response to God’s demand for love, mercy, and justice in the light of the

Kingdom. We proclaim no personal gospel that fails to express itself in relevant social concerns; we proclaim no social gospel that does not

include the personal transformation of sinners. It is our conviction that the good news of the

Kingdom must judge, redeem, and reform the

sinful social structures of our time.

So, may our Lent be guided by the tension that leads to the harmonious music of a faith life that truly is a personal gospel that expresses itself in relevant social concerns and a social gospel that includes the personal transformation of our souls. May we find room for a relationship with God in our perhaps temporarily adopted disciplines, such that even at the end of the season of growth, a nurturing relationship with God continues.