Lent begins this Wednesday the 26th and ends April 9th.
It is a time that reflects Jesus’s withdrawal into the wilderness for 40 days and prepares us for the Easter season.
People in the Christian tradition choose specific things to give up during this time, a type of sacrifice creating an empty spot that was previously filled (with sugar, TV, social media, alcohol, etc.) that can now be saturated with God. It’s really an intentional way to enter into a deeper spiritual practice. Put simply, it is a creation of space.
I’ve been thinking about this year’s Lent season for months and what the creation of new space might hand me, spiritually speaking.
It doesn’t hurt to have some goals, so for this year’s Lent I hope to
·critique my faith
·study the Christ mystery with my family
·sit in the “unknowing”
A few years ago, I learned that Peter Rollins does Lent with his followers by reading selected Atheists. You can visit his website to learn more. While I am not using his particular program, I have looked forward all year to doing this for Lent. I already enjoy reading atheists and viewpoints vastly different than my own. I’ve come to appreciate how a different understanding of the cosmos and humanity can illuminate beliefs I need to rethink my assumptions on. In reading or hearing an atheist say “this is all there is, so each moment is precious and saturated with meaning,” I learn from people who practice presence better than I ever have.
Using atheist books and podcasts is not a comfortable place for me, despite the fact that I do enjoy thinking through their ideas and beliefs. It can feel dark, lonely, and even scary to be interacting with material that comes against my foundational cosmic view. But, I think this is a critically important thing for my faith. I need to be challenged, to accept places I might be wrong, and to regard everyone as my teacher. I walk away from these interactions often with new space for mystery and a much, much bigger God.
I am going to couple my atheist reading with re-reading The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, but with the entire family and out loud. Reading out loud as a family feels like a forgotten tradition, so I love that we still value and practice this. (I hope Niamh and Philly grow up to do the same with their kids.) Phil and I chose this book simply because it is worth reading forever— like, when it’s finished, turning back to the first page and starting again…over and over. It’s our restored and freed faith put into words that we couldn’t find ourselves. I am so thankful for it. And I do believe the beauty and light emanating from every paragraph will feel like a good pairing with the atheists I’ve chosen, as that can feel very heavy to me sometimes.
I will create space to practice these things by giving up some mindless, numbing activity each day— Netflix, social media, Fortnite (don’t judge me; I can’t help it! 🤷🏻♀️), etc.—and instead spend time reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking with Phil and the kids about the Universal Christ. I hope to keep it simple, because that is the way to Lent success!:)
Here is a short list of reading, listening, and watching material to get you started if you are thinking of doing something really different for Lent this year…You know, like mixing atheists in with your Jesus reading! Don’t be afraid of what they might teach you.
Feel free to share your own preparations and practices in the comments below!
·The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr
·THIS podcast that is the first of a series about the Universal Christ by Rohr
·The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman (honest and beautifully written)
·Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall
·Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
·Watch The Power of Myth with Joseph Campbell* and Bill Moyers (Amazon, $11)
·THIS podcast with AJ Levine
·THIS podcast with Brian Greene
·If short on time, search quotes by Carl Sagan and Friedrich Nietzsche— I dare you not to fall in love with some of them
·Watch Last Days in the Desert (my FAVORITE Jesus movie ever, hands down)
*Jospeh Campbell is not an atheist, but is on the fringe for sure