I am not someone who typically enjoys bowling. I don’t like that it takes place in a loud and dimly lit building (why are there never any windows?) with a strange smell and subpar concession snacks. I also may have slipped and fell in front of everyone at a bowling party once as a kid, which could be the real root of my dislike. Either way, bowling with the “bumpers,” or guardrails, is somewhat tolerable to me. At least I know that despite my lack of bowling prowess, the ball is very likely to knock at least a few pins down.
I bring this up because lately I have been thinking of Lent like those bumpers. Life can sometimes feel like a bowling ball careening out of control on a slippery surface (hello global pandemic, foster care, postpartum recovery, and two infants) and the disciplines of Lent are helping me feel a little more hemmed-in, or at least like I’m headed in the right direction.
This year for Lent I decided to go through Erin H. Moon’s Memento Mori guide. You guys… I know we’re only like a week in, but this has been a game changer so far. Lent is traditionally a time of fasting as we prepare to eventually celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and Erin describes the motive behind fasting with this brilliant quote:
“The purpose of these disciplines is not to punish ourselves for our sins. Jesus took all the punishment for us. Rather, the disciplines are meant to empty us so that the Lord may fill us. We are making ourselves available to Christ in hopes of growing our faith.” -Father Thomas McKenzie
Yes yes yes. Erin lays out the following disciplines of Lent: fasting, feasting, repentance, prayer, and justice for others. These “guardrails” serve to get myself out of the way so that I can experience more of Christ and, out of the overflow of that, more love for my neighbor.
My prayer for this season of Lent is that we would discover within us that deep well of uncircumstantial joy that comes only through emptying ourselves so that we can be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). I pray that we would live more closely aligned with how Jesus describes the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3-12) – poor in spirit, humble, merciful, hungering for justice, pure in heart. I pray that we would give ourselves and each other grace when we stumble, and instead of pointing fingers, point each other back to God.
And, it must be said… next time you go bowling, don’t be afraid to use those bumpers.