Giving up myself for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Easter Cycle of the ancient Christian year. (For more, see Advent, Easter and Ordinary Time: Knowing the Christian Calendar.)

Today begins the Lenten season, for which Christians typically give something up.

Along with meat and alcohol, this year for Lent I’m going to give up something else. Insofar as I can, I’m going to give up myself.

I’m going to give up my ego. My self-identification. My drive to make something of myself, to be someone, to matter. I’m going to try to give up the whole idea of myself as a separate, independent being in the world—as a person who has any real existence at all outside of the awesomely fearful sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on behalf of all mankind (including, even, me).

I thought I’d give my all to spending forty days rooted in the vast and hollow darkness of how undeserving I am of the sanctification of the cross, of remaining in the terrible truth of how constantly and prodigiously I squander what God has given me, of how shamelessly, easily, and opportunistically I forget that I’m a Christian—of how readily, with the first shiny object that passes before my eyes, I abandon Christ, though he has never once abandoned me.

Christianity is hardcore. It’s as hardcore as it gets.  It’s as personal as it gets. It’s as transformative as it gets.

And it’s all about Jesus on the cross.

Time to move with Jesus into the time when, lost and alone, he wandered in the wilderness for forty days. Did he know what was waiting for him on the other end of that trial? Did he know what would so soon be asked of his spirit, his resolve, his love, his body?

I don’t know. But I do know what he did. And I know why he did it.

Time to show that.

Time to be with that.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • CK

    A beautiful sentiment that captures the essence of Lent. I too am giving up alcohol so may we both feel the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of self denial.

  • mona

    Definitely thoughts to reflect upon. I am giving up FaceBook. There is no telling how productive I will be. :)

  • Roger Flyer

    I think you will find, unfortunately, that YOU will bounce back soon after Lent. but it’s ok, there is good precedent for it. Romans 7…

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      ??

      • Roger Flyer

        “I’m going to give up my ego. My self-identification. My drive to make something of myself, to be someone, to matter.”

        -No worries, John. YOU, your ego will be back after Easter. Romans 7. I think it was Chuck Swindoll (an influential evangelical pastor back in the day) who said: The trouble with a living sacrifice is it always crawls off the cross.

        • Roger Flyer

          In my experience (maybe not yours) the longer I am a Christian (40 years now), the less power I seem to have to ‘give up’ my ego. Now if by ‘give up’ we mean surrender, I get the concept and I cheer efforts to surrender–in others and myself–but I don’t find it worthwhile to say it all about the cross. It is not. It is about the life, teaching, cross AND resurrection, and they are all significant in my life as a follower of Christ.

          • Hth

            Thank you for this. There’s nothing I find so troubling as a Christian who is more fascinated by Jesus’s death than by what aspects of his life were so troubling to authority that he was executed for anti-state activity (crucifixion was a punishment reserved for treason alone in Imperial Rome). The death is meaningful, but not necessarily any more “transformative” than the life that preceded *and followed* it.

          • Roger Flyer

            Hth. Yes, I understand.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I agree Hth. While Jesus’s death was an important event, it was only one chapter of the story. His life, his teachings, his examples are equally, or more important, as they are the things we can more easily emulate, and what often do more to change us.

          • Raymond Watchman

            Exactly so, allegro. According to John, Jesus stated: I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Not without reason, THE WAY headed Jesus’ I Am list, but of the three, has been the most overlooked by Christians generally. The positive side is that many Christians appear to have become aware of this and are now seeking to make a radical lifestyle and attitude commitment to The Way and to walk in it. Without wishing to play fast and loose with Scripture, I cannot avoid the powerful significance of Isaiah’s “….and you will hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to your right hand and when you turn to your left.”

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      I just read the entire chapter…I too am missing your point.
      Chuck Swindoll’s analogy is creepy, and makes no sense either

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Let him bounce back. Why whack him for that? It is fine to do something good for a little while, then back off.

      Orgasms are great. Who wants one that lasts all day? Then you have to get treated medically, because too long feels like torture.

  • Zed

    Love it.

  • Dmitriy

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