Faith

The Fight Against Cynicism

February 18, 2015

Sometimes I like to be contrary for no good reason. I like to have a different opinion, a different perspective, a different idea, just to prove that I am, well, DIFFERENT.

I will happily play the devil’s advocate. If someone is being a bully with their opinions, I will fight them, not because their opinion is wrong, but because I don’t like bullies.

I genuinely enjoy finding the opposite, uncovering the contradiction. I’m like the Sherlock Holmes of good ideas. The endless pursuit of creativity makes me feel like I’m innovating something magnificent within the mundane.

For Molly’s first birthday, I didn’t want to throw a typical first birthday party. To be clear: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with little girl birthday parties that are all pink and puff and princess. The problem is entirely with me. (I like to be contrary).

So for Molly’s  birthday, we threw an IMMA SURIVOR party where friends celebrated the fact that we survived the first year of parenthood and Molly survived the first year of life. I made it a Destiny’s Child theme—you know, because they sing the song and it gets stuck in your head forever. We also wore camo. We dressed up like Destiny’s Child— except with more vanilla skin tones and less exposed abdominals.

Molly wore a metallic gold vest that said “Mollyancé” on the back. It was ridiculous.

The great part about being contrary is that that is where creative ideas like party themes come from. The bad part about being contrary is that the pursuit of new ideas occasionally turns a well-intentioned person into a cynic, someone that overuses the word ‘lame’ and glosses over tradition for the sake of innovation.

Change is good. But so is tradition.

Innovation can release us into something great, but tradition can anchor us to an established thing, one that might actually be the best thing.

How do we hold both sacred?

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s a ritualistic holiday, a religious tradition, one that meant almost nothing to me most of my life, except that one day a year I would be confused by the shocking number of people grocery shopping with dirty foreheads. I didn’t know that it was ashes on skin. I didn’t know that they got dirty at church. Isn’t it supposed to be the opposite?

Ash Wednesday is a day to remember the depth of our sin so we can revitalize our wide-awake need for a Savior. It’s not that we ever stop needing Jesus or the cross or the hefty process called ‘forgiveness.’ It’s that we stop remembering how much we need it.

I must confess that sometimes Jesus feels so ordinary to me. In my mind, he looks like a friendly Caucasian man with long hair. He smiles a lot and has nice teeth. Sometimes I forget that he suffered. Sometimes I forget the entire weight of the gospel, because I didn’t personally carry it. I wasn’t murdered for my sins. Jesus was.

I’ve sat in church so many Sundays. I’ve gone to summer camps and youth retreats and raised my hands so frequently that it often feels like I’ve wrung the emotionality out of my faith. It feels ordinary, outdated. It’s not sparkly anymore.

And that’s when I realize I’ve started thinking like a cynic instead of a sinner. On Sundays I think, “Yes, I’ve heard this before.” On Mondays I think, “Yes, I can go about my week as a nice Christian citizen, one that smiles a lot and has nice teeth.” When I live like a cynic instead of a sinner, the Gospel seems like a nice idea that I pick up and put down based on how comfortable I feel in my own life.

And the thing is, I truly love Jesus. But I forget about him. I forget that he suffered. I forget that abundant life cost death for someone else.

There is a fantastic devotional up today on She Reads Truth and I urge you to read the bible passages and commentary written by Raechel Meyers. To say more about Ash Wednesday would be to innovate words better written by someone else. Please read the better words.

But let me just say that Lent isn’t just an excuse to restart a diet that failed in the New Year. God might not actually care whether or not you give up sugar. This tradition is instituted as a time to remember in a personal, interior space; to get intentional again, to sand down the callous and contrary edges of my soul and rediscover the truth right in front of me.

It’s time to feel unworthy and contrite and wildly thankful all over again.

Rachel Myers writes: “This is Lent. It’s a time to stop—wherever we’re going and whatever we’re coming from. Whether we’ve been anticipating this season since Christmas, or it’s stopping us cold on our way to where we think we need to be—here we are.”

I’m not sure what the appropriate salutation is for Ash Wednesday, but would very much like to acknowledge it appropriately.

“Happy” Ash Wednesday?

“Greetings” Ash Wednesday?

“Welcome LENT!”

“WWJD?”

I’m not sure.

But I will conclude by saying that today I’m working on remembering. I might even throw on some throwback Destiny’s Child’s jams to remind me that the best things sometimes have already happened, that we just need to celebrate them and revisit them and place them loud in unexpected places.

Today I’m putting the Gospel on my forehead.

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