Lent & The Year of No

As my friend Rachel said on Facebook this morning, Lent is the time when everyone is going to get back on the #yearofno bandwagon. (If you aren’t familiar with the #yearofno, you can find all the relevant posts here.) Whether or not any of that actually happens I don’t know, but Lent is an excellent opportunity to revisit your entitlements and indulgences, and your plan to learn to say “No” to them.

Many of us are giving things up for Lent, saying “No” to idle pleasures and innocent addictions so that we can draw nearer to God in this season. The intention of this is good, but as many others have been writing recently, we need to go deeper.

Lent is a season of repentance, and a season of repentance requires repentance before self-denial can mean anything. We cannot simply subtract an idol from our lives without first confessing, “I am an idol worshipper.” When we try self-denial without repentance, the idol simply goes off into arid places until it finds seven other idols more powerful than itself, and then brings them all back to fill your heart again, leaving you worse off than before. You cannot simply ignore an idol out of existence. You must destroy it with repentance.

The end game that I had in mind with the #yearofno was to break the stronghold that idols have on my heart. It was never simply about losing weight, eating less sugar, or being nicer. It has always been about becoming holy – about the destruction of idols. 

The #yearofno is meant to be a slow immersion into holiness.

Lent is not simply about staying off of social media or depriving yourself of whatever guilty pleasure in which you indulge. Lent is about the preparation for a holy life – life with Christ unencumbered by the burden of idols. The #yearofno is meant to be a slow immersion into holiness. It is the long, methodical murder of idols.

In Lent, we learn to act subversively toward the idolatrous desires of our hearts. But this subversion must always begin with, and be sustained by, repentance. If you consider giving up anything for Lent, give up sin. Give up idols. Return your heart to its rightful owner – Jesus. And in that spirit, carry on your practice of self-denial and renew your commitment to the #yearofno.

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