When it comes to books, I realized I am a completionist. Many years ago, as a birthday present to myself, I bought (what I assumed was) the Complete Works of Shakespeare, but in individual volumes. My intention was to read everything Shakespeare had written. Then I learned about the apocryphal works, like Cardenio and The Two Noble Kinsmen. So I tracked down and ordered copies of those. Then I learned about his collaborations, which really messes up the system, because some of the canonical Shakespearean plays are obvious collaborations late in his career, and some plays are incomplete, and yet, years later, I can say I have read and annotated every single word William Shakespeare has written*, with the asterisk lamenting the lost plays that no one has found, like Love’s Labour’s Wonne. C’est la vie.
I did the same thing with Vonnegut and the Ian Fleming Bond novels. (I’m not going to go down the road of the authors who picked up the pen after Fleming.) But these projects always start by compiling all of the books and then going one by one. It’s a weird habit.
I bring this up not to brag on my Bardophilic ways, but as a reminder for the season of Lent. Surely, someone reading this is giving something up for Lent, or taking something on. Forty days (not including Sundays) is not forever, and abstaining or retraining is a vital spiritual discipline. But is the hard work of discipleship completed with a perfect record of forty days of a spiritual discipline? Most certainly not.
It is important, and I am NOT expressing skepticism nor disbelief that what someone takes on or gives up cannot be accomplished. However, whatever we do (or do not do) in an intentional effort to draw closer to God will not be enough to perfect our discipleship. It is a process that can be completed, but never completely. Shakespeare has led me to restoration comedy and the other Elizabethan writers; Fleming’s writings have lit a fire in me to read post-colonial novelists (because Fleming is a white British aristocrat writing in the 50s with poor views of people of color and their cultures). What we do (or do not do) in the season of Lent is a step on the road leading to resurrection, not the road nor resurrection itself.
But I bet you already knew that. This Sunday we begin a series for Lent on seeing the miraculous in the mundane, the divine in the daily. We’ll be talking about crossing the aisles and how to see God in the other. I look forward to seeing you then.