Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Well, it's Shrove Tuesday, (or to those of French extraction, Mardi Gras), which means that tomorrow we begin the Lenten journey.

We've often decided collectively, as a family, to engage in some modest mortification as a part of our devotional discipline during this season. Some years we've given up television, other years chocolate. We have chosen the usual suspects, things in which we indulge and that do us little good, and perhaps some small harm -- things we would be better off without, so that suffering their absence we are made aware of our dependence upon Christ. We tell the kids that this discipline is like doing weight training. You work and strengthen your "I can say 'no' to that" muscles during Lent. Then, if (or rather, when) you are seriously tempted by something you know is best left alone, by God's grace you've got what it takes to turn away.

Well, this year we don't have television in the house; and so the discussions have begun about what else we might give up during the upcoming 40 days. I am not sure that this year we'll all choose the same things. The kids are now old enough to identify budding dependencies and recognize the wisdom of nipping them now. Pip is considering a season without computer games. More than a month without Moose Trax ice cream will be a genuine sacrifice for Mia. Jacob will work on foregoing his need to get his own way in encounters with his little brother. And me? Well, I think that I would do well to put aside my daily web-trawling. Though I sometimes find interesting bits of information, there is way too much by-catch.

Debra, however, is in a rather different spiritual place than the rest of us. She doesn't need much toning of her "I can do without that" muscles. No, she's the Arnold Schwarzenegger of self-denial. She is working so hard these days at Calvin, and so long... and truth be told, lately without much enjoyment. Life circumstances and spiritual disposition have given her an especially deep awareness of her own shortcomings, a keen sense of her many responsibilities, and along with these, the melancholic outlook so fitting for Lent.

We are wondering therefore, if what she needs to mortify, i.e., what she needs to put to death this Lent, are the overbearing senses of privation, obligation, and condemnation she carries with her. She needs not less of the world's delights, but more of them. More music, more poetry, more prayer, more laughter, more chocolate -- more sabbath repose in the good gifts of God.

Of course, if she ends up indulging in all the things the rest of us are denying, it will make for a rather interesting 6 weeks around here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this...I was looking for something within our reformed community to help me reflect on lent. I appreciate your blog. Blessings to all of your on your Lenten journey.

Jana Riess said...

Amen to Deb making Lent a season of joy as well as penitence. Somehow it's never occurred to me before . . . that the folks who dreamed up the idea of Lent were all men! Men without children!!

So maybe the moms of the world should band together in having a six-week period of feasting and joy in the Lord. I'm not talking an all-out sybaritic spa marathon here, but a Sabbath from worry and some of the burdens. I know you do a TON with the family, Ron--after all, hasn't it been published somewhere that you are the pinnacle of civilized manhood?--but you're not the worrying type.

Keep us posted on how it goes.