Written as a part of a Lent 2017 project.
Although I have never made a conscious decision to “become a Baptist”, I certainly did to remain one. As such, liturgical and church calendar traditions have always fallen vaguely on deaf ears; Advent is usually a joyous occasion for me (largely because counting down to Christmas fills me with childlike glee even as I approach 30), but Lent, particularly as a period of fasting and self-reflection, has always proved problematic.
This could be ascribed to a number of causes I’m sure but specifically: I often struggle with being told what to do (I enjoy the dissenting aspect of life as a Baptist), and I’ve usually been fairly awful at sticking to any sort of Lenten commitment. The tried and tested giving up of a food group usually isn’t too problematic for me (until this year at least) but attributing this sacrificial fast to anything spiritual is usually well-beyond anything I’m actually able to achieve. Should I pray instead of picking up that piece of chocolate?
This year I have indeed decide to fast from chocolate, though this is largely because after the wedding diet of the century I promptly binged on all kinds of the cocoa goodness and didn’t stop until the second day of Lent. As it happens, I accidentally ate both a chocolate dessert pot on a flight to Rome and a chocolate biscotti when I arrived in Rome on the first day of Lent. Failure numero uno.
Since then I have successfully abstained from the delights of all things originating from that wonderful cocoa bean and I find myself wondering whether the implication of rules and guidelines is in fact quite helpful. When I was watching what I ate before my wedding at the end of last year, having rules in place was helpful and having a goal was motivational. Perhaps if I viewed Lent through a similar lens I’d be more successful? (But don’t tell the Anglicans I said that…)
Which leads me to my second failure. I also intend to read the New Testament devotionally throughout Lent as I have become aware that whenever I approach Scripture recently, it is with my academic hat on. I began the period well, reading the first four chapters of Mark and attempting to switch off my “well that’s just the author being a bit creative” automated response and turn on my “isn’t God marvellous” one. However, since then I’ve successfully managed to not pick up the Bible at all. For this part of my Lenten observance it seems that the rules have become restrictive, not liberating as it quickly did for the fasting aspect.
Now I’m left with a few of questions: do I attempt to play catch up with my devotional study? Can you even play catch up with Scripture? And does spending time devotionally with Scripture ever get easier or is it always a task for some, one that we most focus on with the same devout attention as a pre-wedding diet?
Luke has a degree in Theology from Spurgeon’s College and is currently studying for his Masters in Biblical Studies at King’s College, part time. The rest of the time he works as a freelancer in business management and administration, attempts to journey with the Baptist Union of Great Britain on LGBT+ inclusion, is a Deacon at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, and works on projects such as Soho Gathering (@sohogathering). He is married to Steven and their wedding was the first same-sex marriage to be celebrated at Bloomsbury.