I belong to the generation that no one appears to understand: The Millennials. We have been referred to by the “e” word (entitled), and some spend thousands to purchase books and attend conferences in an attempt to understand this “everyone gets a trophy” generation. It’s pretty wild.
We are the generation that grew up with the rise and transformation of the information age. We went from Saturday morning cartoons in our youth, to 9/11 in elementary school, all the way to the invention of Siri, Alexa, Samantha (not real), and H.G. (not Wells, but “Hey Google…”). Apple’s iPhone grew up with us.
Although information was at our fingertips, tradition seeped away. Some of our parents passed on a devotion to the Church, while others deemed it something that only their Grandma made them go to on Easter and Christmas.
This is where it gets interesting. For millennials, most things in our life have a point. Each app serves a different purpose and caters to my preferences. I’m writing this reflection on Google Docs because I can either sit at a desk or write on my phone.
My technology caters to me. But my faith doesn’t.
My faith is personal, yet above me.
The Christian faith is individual, yet transcendent. My faith requires something of me; it reorients me from a world that seems to serve me, to a world that actually serves me. So many people have been told “just come to church” because you are supposed to. They are offered no true reason for the faith or why they should belong to their Grandmother’s parish. Rather, they are told to just come because it’s what you’re supposed to do and no member of the family has not been “saved.”
Many in my millennial generation call bluff. Why? Because so many of them are already living through hell. They are already living a life that they are deeply aware isn’t satisfying. They have tried all the old tricks: drugs, technology, sex, career. Only to never discover that “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25, NIV).
My fellow millennials may not use the word “disciple”, but I believe they want the life and peace that discipleship with Jesus provides.
The gospel is the opposite of what we fallen humans think is normal. To lose ourselves to fasting and prayer, to Christian community, to the needs of our neighbor is the process and the map to actually finding ourselves, for our true identity is in God. In Lent, God calls us to peace.
Lent should not be tradition for the sake of tradition.
We might pass along traditions with good intentions, but people long for community, long for something bigger, someone stronger than the present world, an answer to the issues of social lacking, a way out of what feels like hopelessness, a pulpit that points them to the sacrificial nature of the cross. A way that is both costly and fulfilling. My generation needs this hope and truth.
My generation willingly volunteers for CrossFit and Keto diets, submitting ourselves to physical sacrifice, yet remains aware that these commitments are also lacking something. I believe that deep below the distractions of our modern age exists a longing that must be satisfied by the creator. We are longing for someone not to judge us, but to welcome us into a different life, a life of sacrifice.
Lent could be the Christian church’s recruiting season.
Lent should be the time where we invite ourselves and our neighbors to the sacrificial life of faith.
This is the time to invite. It’s counterintuitive, but imagine the difference in discipleship when we say, “If you have that gnawing feeling inside that, no matter what you try or do, it’s not enough, then I want to invite you to something else—the life of the Cross.”
We model the life of the Cross after the life of Jesus, who, as the Prayer Book puts it, “went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified.” We already know what it feels like to suffer in a sense. We already know what it feels like to embrace the pain of a “connected society” only to be so lonely. So let’s invite our lonely neighbors to a time of reflection and reorientation.
“As you choose to deny yourself something this Lent, I want to walk with you as you begin to receive something.
This something is going to be so grand. It’s going to start on the inside and feel like light pouring in. It’s going to make you smile and help you begin to realize that, as St. Francis put it, ‘It is in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.’
I want to walk with you as you find this out for yourself, as this ‘religious language’ begins to make sense. I want to walk with you so that you are not alone, but also so that you realize that you’ve never been alone and will never be again.
If you’d allow me to share my struggles and joys with you during this time, I’d be honored. I’m so excited for what God has for you, and I’m excited for you to lose what you’ve been longing to be free of.”
This Lent, I pray that the gospel would free you to reach that friend or family member that frustrates you. I pray that the gospel would free you to be loved yourself. I pray that the gospel would set all generations free to eternal life.
To learn more about Lent, check out our book: Lent: The Journey from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week, edited by Greg Goebel and Joshua Steele, with a Foreword by Tish Harrison Warren.