Lent and the things we can’t stop thinking about

If I were to ask you to not think of a unicorn, what happens…you think of a unicorn.  Why?

Because when we are asked to not do something or give something up our natural tendency is to do the opposite. Perhaps the power of suggestion is stronger than we think or maybe its the way we’ve learned to master the very subtle ways of using reverse psychology. My kids do this to me all the time.  One of my kids comes up to me and says, “Dad, I bet you can’t catch me…” What happens? I get up and chase them all around the house.

We are one week into this season of Lent and I have noticed the very thing I decided to give up, I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel like I am living Marshall Chapman’s country song “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.” 

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but for some reason I find myself daydreaming and drifting in thought of cheating on my Lenten discipline. This is a little perplexing to me because when this indulgence was a part of my life I rarely gave it a single thought. Now before you play pseudo-psychologist and diagnose me as having a uncontrollable habit, I have find every time I give up something substantial in my life during Lent this happens.

In Dr. Ashley Null’s book Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance; Renewing the Power of Love, Null articulates Thomas Cranmer’s (the creator of the Anglican prayerbook) view of humanity as “what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.” This is Romans 7 when Paul says in verse 15 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Dr. Null goes on to say “the trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways. Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation.” (pp.100)

The Lenten discipline of denying ourselves by fasting exposes our loves and, if we let the Holy Spirit lead us and strengthen us, actually redirects us and our loves to be under His authority. Only God can reorder our loves and I hope that you experience his grace in this season as we are redirected back to the one who loves us above all else.