You may have seen a screenshot floating around the internet of Mark Wahlberg on the Today Show from this past Wednesday. He’s describing a Lenten prayer practice he’s adopting and the lower third title card says “Mark Wahlberg’s 40 Day Challenge.” I can’t count the amount of jokes that have been spurred off by the implication that the origins of the ancient spiritual practice of Lent (or the Holy season of the 40 days, not including Sundays, leading up to Easter, defined by fasting and repentance) is actually with action star Mark Whalberg.
As much we joke about it, the gaffe reveals something in how many of us can misinterpret Lent. In our culture rife with social media trends, self-improvement advice, and a frenetic need to maximize ourselves, practices of fasting, prayer, and more can get easily distilled into the spiritualized version of the popular self-improvement challenge “75 Hard,” or a detox juice cleanse.
The problem then is that our Lenten practice becomes something we accomplish. It becomes an opportunity to glorify our own self-discipline and commitment. If your Lenten practice has a hashtag, it’s probably worth spending some time considering whether it is really about what it says it’s about.
What if we could refocus ourselves so Lent isn’t meant to be about proving what we can do, but admitting what we can’t? What if we selected Lenten practices that reminded us not of our own greatness but of God’s?
There was a collection of gmail templates released by Starter Story this week that were all meant to help the user say no to things – favors, jobs, interviews, even things like requests for coffee or to make an introduction.
What if we made our “40-day challenge” something like that? What if we committed ourselves to accomplishing one less thing a day to make margin for the Holy Spirit to comfort and move us? What if our fast was truly a denying of ourselves of something that wasn’t just valuable to us but which we utilized to give ourselves value?
We encourage you to say no to something this Lenten season, or to lots of somethings, and if it makes space in your life, see it as a blessing from the Spirit
…and of course, Mark Wahlberg.