An Invitation To A Holy Lent (And Holy Rest)

Hi. My name is Christine and I’m a workaholic.

I have never attended a Workaholics Anonymous meeting but a quick Google search led me to their website which tells me that it’s “for people identifying themselves as powerless over compulsive work, worry, or activity including, but not limited to, workaholics–including overworkers and those who suffer from unmanageable procrastination or work aversion.”

Yup. That’s me alright.

Jimmy tells me that I have “noggin issues.” What he means is that my brain is always on overdrive. I don’t sleep well. I consistently wake up at 2 am, start thinking, can’t fall back asleep, will be up for 3-4 hours, fall back asleep for another hour and then get up to start the day.

There are a lot of reasons that might be causing my sleeplessness. I tried convincing my ob/gyn that I wasn’t sleeping well because I was pre-menopausal. She asked me, “Are you turning off your screens an hour before you sleep?” No. “Are you exercising regularly?” No. “Are you limiting your caffeine intake in the afternoons?” No. “You should probably try these things first before you start diagnosing yourself off of WebMD.”

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Why am I not turning off my screens before I sleep? Because there is always one more email to write. Why am I not exercising regularly? Because I pack my week so full of 10-12 hour days, my introverted self is exhausted and the last thing I want to do is exercise. Why am I not limiting my caffeine intake? Because I’m not sleeping or exercising and it’s the only thing giving my body a boost of energy.

If I dig deeper, it comes down to this reality that’s hard to admit: in my heart of hearts, I want to be God. I act like I am God. I think that if I stop working, everything will fall apart. If I stop working, people will think I’m not competent and on top of things. If I stop working, maybe I will have to confront that I can’t justify my worth and existence by the things that I accomplish.

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One of the things I love most about living the Christian year is that whether I’m aware of it or not, or feel ready for it or not, here it is. Winter gives way to spring every single year. The light of Christ’s revelation to the world that we celebrate and give witness to in Epiphany also “shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). What Lent does is give us the gift of being able to ask, where have I allowed the darkness of living life without God to seep in? Where have I elevated the gifts over and above the Giver? What habits have I become bound to that lead to death rather than the life and freedom that are found in Christ?

In other words, what do I need to die to in Lent so that I can live the new life of Easter more fully?

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There are 40 days of Lent. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days being tempted by the devil. Bobby Gross writes, “Humbled by hunger, the Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus in the desert understood experientially their daily dependence on God for physical sustenance; more profoundly, they relied on God for the life that lies beyond biology, life for our souls, ourselves… Hearing God’s Word and doing God’s will becomes food for us, Jesus teaches. Even more, he feeds us with himself: his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink.”

A few things to ponder in these days leading up to Lent:

  • Where have I gotten away from the Lord and how can I return to him with all my heart?
  • Is there something I can fast from that when I hunger for it, I can be reminded of my hunger for Christ?
  • Is there a practice I can take up that might help me reorient myself toward God and his kingdom?

At the risk of being like one of those people Jesus talks about in Matthew 6 who shows off their fasting, I’ll share my Lenten practices for this year. I’m going to fast from technology after 9 pm and before 8 am. And I’m committing (re-committing) to 24-hour Sabbath every week to stop work, rest, delight and contemplate God’s love and goodness and to be reminded that God is God and I am not.

There have been many of you who have expressed a desire to “keep the Sabbath holy.” The Sabbath was never intended to be individual but a communal practice for the people of God. The women of All Angels’ will be delving into this at our retreat at the end of March. This Sunday, March 3 as well as March 10, we’ll have a table downstairs with resources available for Sabbath and Lent.

Whether you decide to keep the Sabbath as your Lenten practice or not, I pray that this Lent, you will experience the Lord’s promise from Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

**Here is the link to a sermon I preached in 2017 entitled “Sabbath In A Time Of Unrest” for an introduction to the Sabbath.

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