We’re three weeks into Lent. You gave up something that mattered. You are getting tiny glimpses of God. And you woke up this morning terrified about the new week.
This morning you realized that some people are feeling threatened by your discipline. It feels like they are out to get you. Most people don’t understand what you are doing, particularly if you are with people who don’t traditionally acknowledge Lent.
I think we need to talk about prophets.
When God wants to get people’s attention, He has lots of options: rainbows, earthquakes, babies. When He wants to explain why He’s getting their attention, He sends prophets. Prophets speak on God’s behalf. As you read through the Bible, they are men and women, old and young, consistent and inconsistent, shepherds, nobles. They have little in common with each other, except this: God gives them illustrated words.
They often sound cranky. They speak against the way we routinely live. It’s not because they are trying to be contrarian. Quite the opposite. They are speaking the truth, the standard. And everything else is contrary.
Part of their message is always good news: God’s offering this. Stop doing that. Draw near to God. Stop doing what takes you away. But most of the time, the good news gets ignored. To hear it would mean changing our fundamental orientation to life.
Sometimes prophets are living metaphors. For example, God says to Ezekiel, “Lie on your side for 390 days. Then lie on your other side for forty days.” (This is in Ezekiel 4.) Ezekiel’s life for more than a year illustrated years of rebellion against God. For those who had ears to hear and eyes to see, it would have been a heart-breaking illustration. Each day of Ezekiel’s life showed a year of a whole nation’s rebellion. No wonder God was heart-broken.
For those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, Lent is a prophetic act, illustrated words. We give up something to have room on our agenda for God. We leave space to listen. For forty days we practice orienting our attention away from something else and toward God.
As we keep Lent, we don’t have to work hard to imagine what it’s like to be a prophet. We discover that we are a living metaphor, a truth-teller. We begin to feel the resistance of those unwilling to change themselves. We become the messenger that people want to shoot.