Omitting the Needless
The Elements of Style famously includes this advice: “Omit needless words.”
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
As Strunk and White say, this principle applies to more than writing. It applies to gadgets like the iPod. It can apply to life as well.
Maybe this is the point of Lent. Maybe Lent is about omitting needless activities and indulgences so we can get to what’s central. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me it means deactivating my Facebook account and spending less time on social media and blogs. I’m also going to be reading Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (mentioned by Trevin Wax today).
Lent isn’t about giving things up as much as it is making what is left behind count. It’s about making extra time to focus on what matters most.
Jack Miller once wondered how to pray for missionary friends. His prayer is my prayer for Lent:
What I finally came to as I walked and prayed for you is the old, old story of getting the gospel clear in your own hearts and minds, making it clear to others, and doing it with only one motive – the glory of Christ. Getting the glory of Christ before your eyes and keeping it there is the greatest work of the Spirit that I can imagine. And there is no greater peace, especially in times of treadmill-like activity, than doing it all for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Think much of the Savior’s suffering for you on that dreadful cross, think much of your sin that provoked such suffering, and then enter by faith into the love that took away your sin and guilt, and then give your work your best. Give it your heart out of gratitude for a tender, seeking, and patient Savior. Make ever common task shine with the radiance of Christ. Then every event becomes a shiny glory moment to be cherished… (The Heart of a Servant Leader)