Lent and Sloth. Lent and sloth, say them. Two images come to mind:
This year, thanks to my church, I’m rediscovering Lent. For years I’ve attended mega-huge, non-denominational churches that emphasized commonality. The basics. The oh so important basics. And adding depth to those basics was also there. Traditional liturgy? Not often there. Emphasis of holy weeks? Not often there.
At my childhood home church (from ages 11-18) we did have a phenomenal worship pastor who sprinkled the services with liturgy, confession, and dynamic quotes from spiritual fathers and mothers.
But I never remember the 40 days of Lent being emphasized. Maybe it was my own tweenage filter that blocked out the mention of sin, confession, repentance, those 40 plodding, steady days toward the cross.
This year at my church in Holland, we are learning about the seven deadly sins each week before Easter. About the seven corresponding virtues. So far we’ve heard teaching on Pride, Envy, and yesterday, Sloth.
This week’s teaching pastor, also a neighbor of ours, did an incredible job capturing the complexity of sloth. Not just laziness. Not just the stereotypical ‘sit on the couch with a bag of chips.’ Sloth, just like the other seven sins, has a heart. And that heart is indifference. Bottom line: sloth says, “My life is more important than yours. My life cannot be interrupted by your victories, your troubles, unless my own life is somehow enriched.” Sloth is devoid of a heart with arms, an outstreched heart moved by compassion.
And Sloth doesn’t always look like laziness. Sloth can also be busyness or perfectionism. Aka: My life is (and I am) so important, I must fill it with work meetings, vacations, volunteer work, cooking the perfect dinners, having the perfect home, making the right connections. This kind of sloth also leaves no room for the Other, no time or space for inviting someone else into our lives, allows no room for compassion. And therefore, Sloth is sin.
And yesterday during the teaching, the pastor gave those of us listening a beautiful metaphor for sin: the Colorado River. Over hundreds and thousands of years, the river has carved out the Grand Canyon. The water, because of it’s made and found pattern, has slowly, slowly, oh-so-slowly carved the Canyon to be the majesty that it is. As it is with us and our decisions. Those tiny, small, slow decisions we make. To sit on the couch, or to take a walk? To involve our daughter in cooking the meal? Or to do it quicker on our own? To cross the street to greet our neighbor? Or not. To surf the net for ten-twenty-sixty minutes? Or to call a friend or read or do something that gives to us, enriches us, sustains us so that we can get up the next day and give to another.