'Holy Nugget' of Lent

Divinity - Spire E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

February 2018

Dear alumni/ae and friends,

When I was a kid, I always thought of Lent as the 40 days that I gave up something I really, really liked—or at least tried to. It was a time of denial. A time of losing something I valued. A time of frustration. A time of a growing hunger for that thing I was not supposed to have—be it food or an activity or whatever I could come up with. Some of my friends chose easy things. For those who didn’t like chocolate, they gave up chocolate or for those who didn’t like peas, well, that’s what they gave up.

Meanwhile, I was walking around miserable while some of my friends bragged about their Lenten discipline’s ease. I always thought that they were cheating and getting away with it. I just couldn’t see the Holy in giving up what you never touched or did for 40 days, because you didn’t do them the other 325 days.

Well, somewhere along the journey, I realized that what I attempted to do each Lent was missing the holy nugget of Lent—preparation. Yes, prayer and doing penance and repentance, almsgiving, self-denial and more are a part of it, but I was so focused on the acts of Lent that I had lost the reason for Lent. Preparation is sometimes an undervalued thing in our religious journeys and in life in general. Too often, we leap into what we think must be done or should be responded to without taking time to ask basic questions like do I even know what I’m doing? Do I have all of the facts? Have I asked if I’m needed? Have I asked how I can be helpful? The list goes on.

What preparation does—as folks still learn from the Rev. James Lawson about nonviolent social protest and disobedience and how to live it far beyond February Black History month—is that preparation gives you the foundation for your acts through readying head, heart, body and spirit for the journey or task ahead.

So, this Lent I will begin again to prepare for the joy and celebration of Easter morning and the life that this calls me to for the rest of the year. Sometimes it is a reaffirmation, sometimes it is a new insight, most times it is humbling and it’s almost always much more possible when done in community. But the difference now is that rather than approaching it as what can I give up during these 40 days, it is what can I embrace that will help me be a more faithful witness to the Gospel. Won’t you join me?

Emilie M. Townes

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society


Vanderbilt Divinity School is launching a new curriculum featuring cross-disciplinary areas of concentration.





Religion in the Arts features works by African American artist Omari Booker.





Monique Moultrie , PhD ’10, is an AAR Individual Research Grant recipient for her paper, ‘Hidden Histories: Faith as a Site of Black Lesbian Activism?’



Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics and Justice, by Kira Schlesinger, MDiv’11, is reviewed in the National Catholic Reporter.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary named Timothy R. Eberhart, MDiv’00, MA’07, PhD ’12, director of its master of arts in public ministry degree program.

Syriac: Preserving an Endangered World Culture‘ is on display at Cohen Hall.

The Rev. Barrett Ingram, MDiv’06, is the new pastor of Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Visit our job listings for alumni/ae and current students.

February’s “Read This Book” is a review and recommendation by Amy E. Steele.

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