“What’s Lent all about?” Recently, our pastor—quoting a *long-time friend—observed that “Lent is a time to drop pretense.” That startling idea instantly gathered together most of Lent’s rich contemplations. My thoughts—echoing and buoyed by our pastor’s further sermon observations—turned in these directions….
Pretense? I’ve always thought of it as not-so-good, part of the self-delusions that afflict me. Pretense is one way I can hide behind any number of behavioral facades. I know how to construct sometimes-obvious and sometimes-subtle positive artifices about myself. I tend and maintain these relational structures so that others think well of me.
Is pretense a sin? Probably, because it clouds the truth. I can use pretense in what I hope are caring ways—e.g., softening criticism with kinder words or shading difficult news with euphemisms. But it feels to me like the ultimate benefit of clay-feet pretense is still my (secret) hope to look good. In the end, though, truth will rise to the surface, the destroyed façade of my self-deceptions no longer protecting my projected image.
How might I “drop pretense” during this season of the church year? Sober, perhaps-cathartic reflection about what’s really true, what about me that might harm others, what it costs to hide behind subterfuges. Apologizing, confessing, asking for forgiveness. Perhaps listening more closely when those around me try to help me be honest. Admitting it when I really don’t know what I’m talking about or doing.
Because Lent offers a time to slow down, I can join Jesus as he heads towards the cross—never an easy or fast track. My Lenten prayers can gather around more profound, ultimate truths.
What would this “dropping-pretense older adult” look like? I’m not sure, but the Lenten season stretches out for a few more unpretentious weeks.
There’s still time….
*The Reverend Darla DeFrance, mission developer pastor at Columbia City Church of Hope in Seattle, WA. http://www.columbiacityhope.org/
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