I was talking to a parent recently about the challenges of raising children. She reminded me of an awesome interview by Louis C.K. with Conan O’Brien. The interview itself is funny and, as fair warning, quite crass (do not watch it with impressionable ears nearby – the link can be found here). But what struck me about the interview is what I would label as pretty powerful theology by Louis C.K. In his interview, he argues that we use technology to fill our time so that we can avoid the reality that there are parts of life that are tremendously sad and times when we feel utterly alone. He further argues that by filling up that dark space and not allowing ourselves to fully experience that deep sadness, we never get to true happiness.
I was struck this week about how appropriate Louis C.K.’s words are for the Lenten experience. I have a couple of parishioners who really dislike Lent and find it horribly depressing. In some ways I agree with them. Lent is somewhat depressing, and for some odd reason, that is what I like about Lent. I never could fully explain that reality until I heard this interview. What Louis C.K. points out is that sometimes we really need to go to those dark places. Otherwise, we can never really find the true, deeply abiding happy places too.
In the Episcopal Church, The Catechism in the back of our Book of Common Prayer says this about sin:
Q: What is sin?
A: Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.
Q: How does sin have power over us?
A: Sin has power over us because we lose our liberty when our relationship with God is distorted.
Q: What is redemption?
A: Redemption is the act of God which sets us free from the power of evil, sin, and death.
Lent gives us the opportunity to really examine our own sinfulness – the ways in which we have distorted our relationship with God, other people, and all creation. Many of my friends have given up some form of technology for Lent – by not checking Facebook, taking Sabbaths from TV or the internet, or putting down their cell phones at certain points of the day. My guess is that their discipline will create room for them to contemplate their sinfulness, or as Louis C.K. might say, their “forever empty.” My prayer for them is that their practice leads to an ability to find their way back to God, who redeems us and helps us find that true happiness. I am curious about how you are journeying into your own “forever empty” this Lent, and I look forward to hearing how that journey leads to the light.