I haven't given up a lot this Lent. Nothing, really. No attempts at systematic self-deprivation this year.
Well...I take that back. I have given something up. I have given up the fantasy -- the "wish-dream," to sound Bonhoefferian -- that the ELCA cares about the spiritual formation of its membership...about helping Lutherans grow into their lives in Christ in a deeper, more mindful manner.
That's not to say that individual Lutherans in the ELCA do not care about spiritual formation -- I'm privileged to know many who do -- or that there aren't pockets of strong, intentional spiritual practice within our denomination.
But I don't think this is a priority among the power-brokers in our denomination. Nor, sadly, do I think it's a priority in the pews. Despite our place within the Church catholic, I do not think that our particular church culture, either at the top or at the grassroots level, supports the type of spiritual direction that gives people access to the tools of traditional Christian practices that add depth and dimensionality to the faith experience.
The thing is -- letting go of the idea that my lay ministry training is ever going to include a spiritual-formation component, letting go of the idea that the ELCA is all that interested in the ministry of spiritual direction, letting go of the hope that someday there will be a groundswell of Lutheran lay interest in such stuff -- it's liberating. It means that I no longer have an excuse to not get on with it, instead of waiting for this program or that class or this official pronouncement. And I have the comfort of knowing that I have allies, spiritual friends, from a variety of Christian traditions, who've come to similar conclusions.