This Little Light of Blame — Message from Garrett

Practicing Lenten disciplines has always been one of those spiritual activities that has escaped me. I’ve heard friends tell me what they’re “giving up for Lent,” and it seems more like New Year’s resolutions with religious flavor rather than vehicles for self-reflection.

I don’t mean to devalue these efforts – bad habits can block spiritual development, so there is merit in any concentrated effort to free oneself, whether it ensues on January 1, Ash Wednesday, or any other day. It’s just that these “list items”, whether we give up chocolate or take a break from social media for forty days don’t always obviously connect with following Christ. One might even say that many of our Lenten disciplines trivialize the whole thing (*gasp*).

Musicians like to practice (sometimes). To me, some of these sacrifices aren’t signaling practice; it’s placing much more emphasis on what we are sacrificing and directs too little attention to what we may take up instead. After hearing Tami’s sermon in the first Sunday of lent, I found the intention was much more than creating a magical void that God enters and fills. It was the practice of a discipline to keep temptation away. Lent calls us to take up something new into the space we have created through our letting go, most often through prayer, acts of charity, etc. But I think we as a society should dare greatly and invest mindfulness in learning something new. We’re beckoned to seek something—someone—outside ourselves.

“But Garrett, isn’t that a little self-centered? Why would I choose to pick up something new when I’ve been told to practice sacrifice?”

Valid point, internet, and spiritual stranger. Here I argue: self-examination doesn’t equate to self-centeredness; instead, it can be an opportunity to expand our vision, to become more aware of our context and environment. When reading music, one of the fundamentals of literacy is understanding what we call a “key-signature.” It’s an alteration of specific notes in a scale. Think of it as road signs guiding you to a destination. The road you normally take may be under construction and it is no longer traversable. Sure, it may be a new road, but the detours will keep you on the right path – it may even be inconvenient compared to what you normally do, but you may stumble upon something beautiful, something fun, something worth going out of your way for.

Curiosity, delight, interest, and openness. These are hardly words that we associate with Lenten practices of discipline and sacrifice. But they characterize ways to relate to the rest of creation.

I’m not here to offer programmatic solutions or to further emphasize our scarcity culture (never being able to do enough, we are apt to do nothing). It’s hard to know how to embrace and enact it, no matter how compellingly we are urged toward it. Think of it as an opportunity to try on some different ways of thinking that can translate to new forms of practice. As I prepare for Lent, I want to do my part to help provide the members of this church with opportunities for an individual journey within the key-signature of Lent. It is my prayer that, though individuals, our collective journeys will enable us to contribute our gifts to a common effort and make a difference in the broader community.

Yours in Music, Garrett