The passages we encounter this week are important ones for Lent and for our lives. Often when I talk about the Lenten experience I speak about how we order our lives in preparation for meeting Christ. Many people wonder what it means to order one’s life.
It is not organizational nor is it categorizing every moment of one’s day, it is about bringing order to your life, creating a focus, and giving space for God so as to not let our own thoughts and lives take over to the extreme that we no longer are able to connect with God. This is something that is not easy to do because it is counter cultural. In our society we are programmed to think for ourselves, strive for the things we like and discount the things we do not. We are motivated to strive for the ideals of this world over listening for God.
I remember not too long ago watching a child melt down in the candy aisle at the store when his mother told him “No” as he reached for the sweets. Unfortunately, the mother gave in, the child got what he wanted, and they strolled off as if nothing happened. “Strange,” I thought, but I see how often that happens in the world. More importantly I looked inward and saw how often that happens within my own life. There are times when I am drawn to what makes me feel good over what is really healthy and nutritious.
I cannot help but think of the Snickers commercial that had the tag line “Snickers satisfies.” No it does not! It may make you less hungry and quench a temporary hunger pang, but really what does it do for you? The energy you would get dissipates almost as soon as you eat it, and the fat and other chemicals actively work against your overall health. So while it may make you less hungry, what does it do for you other than to please you? And it pleases you in such a temporary way that you often find yourself looking for that next thing.
We are often like the child in the supermarket. Though as adults we do not have tantrums-- well, not like we did when we were kids--often we think about what we want and what our desires are over what God wants from us or what really is the best for our lives. This is where we become out of order. Instead of being connected with God’s hope and calling for our lives, we place our comfort and our knowledge before God, putting us out of order with the way things ought to be.
This is central for both of the passages that we encounter this week. In no way does God desire us to suffer or deprive ourselves of this world. God wants us to enjoy what has been created! However, we must not allow our enjoyment of the world to reorder our enjoyment of our relationship with God. As Paul reminds us often, we are not living for this world, but we live to please God and must listen and follow, lest we find ourselves in dire places!
As we continue our season of Lent, let us focus on how we reorder our lives. While for some, Lent is a time for giving something up, for others, it is adding something to their lives. Neither is better than the other, as long as the reason is to help refocus and reorder our lives so that when the Easter story comes, we are ready to hear and understand the glory that will come.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen