The chapel ceiling vaults several stories high. Stained glass fixed in ancient stone window frames. Candles burned and the choir readied. All rise.
I stood in the hush of the Evensong service at Christ Church Cathedral. The boys and men’s choir sings the entire liturgy, at times answering exhortations from the minister, who also sings the prayers. On this night, the choir sang Psalm 37. Then the minister prayed for a blessed "reordering during these Lenten days."
Ash Wednesday was a mere two days prior and everyone seemed to be giving up lattes and social media and the internet in general. One friend defended fasting from these activities because they have now intruded so much on our daily lives, and there is certainly truth to that.
But what the minister said, about reordering, stuck with me. Giving up social media during Lent seemed incongruous with what Christ gave up for me. And what did his giving up mean to me?
Did it not save me soul? Did it not pull me out of darkness—the darkness of me and all my anger and hate, my disdain for the church?
"Had I not changed you—the Tim of the bitter life?" the whisper echoed in the vaulted caverns within me.
Had he not, by way of Easter reordered me?
What was Lent to me; a pallid time of giving up the western world luxuries? Not saying you and I should not give up certain luxuries for Lent, necessarily, but the giving up is only part of Lent. There is the remembering of Christ’s act on the cross. There is prayer. There is repentance. There is giving. And yes, there is fasting. But fasting in light of what?
What are we really giving up for Lent?
When I surrendered my rebellious heart to God, he reordered me. The actions and thoughts to which I clung began to grow brittle and break off. I was like the old oak table that someone painted over years ago—paint chipping from the weather. But then the original builder of that oak table discovered me at some flea market, bought me back and began the painful process of reclamation.
His wire brush dug deep into my cheap and flaking paint, loosening it from the surface. Then he took his sander to me and ground the paint into dust. Slowly the original oak planks peeked through and the table he knew so well, the table he fashioned with care and intention emerged.
“There you are,” he’d whisper to me, and sanded some more. “See, Tim, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
As he reclaims he also reorders. I am no longer the backyard picnic table. Now, I am the dining room table. My purpose has changed.
There is no season of Lent. Rather, there is a life of Lenten reordering—a breathing, an acting, a living time of reordered fullness as you and I look back on our marred selves and glory in the newness. Each day vaults into glorious opportunity to praise the God who bought us back from sin (reclaimed) and reordered us.
Is it enough, then, to fast from the luxuries that so easily invade, that seek to paint over our oaken glory? Of course the delighted fasting of the heart will not go unnoticed.
But I wonder, might we seek even deeper change, permanent change? Perhaps we should focus less on temporary fasting and more on evaluating the extent to which the world has veneered us—the extent to which we’ve allowed the world to veneer us—and seek a holy reordering.
As I left Christ Church, I contemplated the concept of reordering. How might I better align my daily rhythms to God’s? How saturated are my purposes and desires in his, and how obedient am I to his calling on my life? Does my fasting matter if I am not living obediently? Does my fasting matter if I live insistent upon satisfying my own cravings?