Before my current experiment of fasting from Facebook, I saw Lent in terms of the thing to be given up…sweets, or coffee, or beer, or Facebook. It was about the “nouns” so to speak. The thinking was if I denied myself some particular noun, it would be an offering of sorts to God, as if God would be pleased by the absence of that thing in my life for those 40 days. That perspective would fit with the material nature of my western worldview. We have a tendency to see the world through the colored lenses of nouns. We objectify our lives by identifying them in terms of the nouns with which we surround ourselves…our cars, our address, our clothes, our friends, our job, etc. The practice of adding some discipline helps counter this…adding a more regular prayer time, daily Scripture study, writing more regularly, etc. These practices seem to help move ones focus from the nouns.
The real “rubber hits the road” moment for me in all this fasting stuff is the moment of decision, not at the front end of Lent, but daily. There is a choice to be made every time I open a web browser…to login or not. Which choice will I make? Ultimately it’s not about the actual state of being logged in or logged out. Each choice made is an opportunity for prayer…for worship. Isn’t that what the whole idea of “pray without ceasing” is all about? The spiritual formation is instilled in the particular choice made. M. Robert Mulholland defines spiritual formation as “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for he sake of others.” (Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation). This “being conformed” thing is a journey…a process…an action…a verb.
C.S. Lewis says this so much better:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
I’m learning to view lent in terms of choices.
4 thoughts on “Nouns and Verbs”
Thanks for sharing that Mike. Choice is a term that’s been buzzing around in my head for some years now, and your experience with Lent helps me think about the fullness of our choices a little more clearly. When we think about the choices in front of each day, we have to live a both more intentionally and more humbly, I think. Surprisingly tough things to do when we spend so much of our day focused on efficiency and productivity, and as you point out, adding nouns to our lives.
It’s hard to live intentionally most of the time. We live such busy and often cluttered lives these days. I guess that’s where the “discipline” part of “spiritual disciplines” comes in. It takes time and practice to build new practices into habits and habits into lifestyles doesn’t it? In our fast moving instant culture, we often don’t stick with these things long enough to make through such a progression. And all these decisions form us
Have you read _Acedia and Me_ or _The Quotidian Mysteries_ by Kathleen Norris? If you haven’t check them out.
nope…I’ve read Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Norris but haven’t checked those out. Thanks!