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When I was in high school, an uncle gave me a large volume of Grimms’ Fairy Tales for Christmas. My initial response was basically “bah humbug.” I wondered if he forgot I wasn’t a little kid anymore. Why else would he give me a book of fairy tales? I was pretty sure I had put aside such childish things.
But I eventually cracked open the book. And that’s when I realized these weren’t the same sweet tales my parents had once read to me.
In case you’re not familiar with the Grimms’ versions of these classic stories, let’s look at Cinderella. Sure, it’s a nice, romantic love story. It’s also full of blood and poetic birds. Seriously.
When the prince shows up looking for someone to fit into the golden slipper, Cinderella’s stepsisters hope to be the next princess. The eldest tries it on but it won’t fit, so the girl’s mom grabs a knife so the stepsister could chop off her own big toe. Seeing the shoe then fits, the prince happily starts to ride away with her. Then two doves cry out for him to look for the blood. Noticing it trickling out of the shoe, the prince turns around to let the younger sister try. Once again, the foot is too big, so the mother of the year provides the knife so this girl could slice off part of her heel. The unobservant prince again rides off happily with his new dream girl before the two doves return with a second verse, same as the first. And at Cinderella’s wedding, the two doves peck out the eyes of the limping stepsisters.
That’s quite different (and more interesting) than the domesticated Disney version.
But it’s not just fairy tales we tend to sanitize. We also do that to the Bible. That’s why Beau Underwood, Angela Parker, and I wrote a new devotional book, Unsettling Lent.
It may seem like Christmas just passed, but the season of Lent leading up to Easter is almost here. Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) is just barely a month away, and that will start the 40 days of reflection before Easter on April 9. And for each of those days, we have a short devotional designed to undomesticate the story.
If you read our Unsettling Advent devotionals in 2021 or 2022, you likely understand the new Lenten guide won’t be an average set of devotionals. But unlike the email format of the Advent reflections, Unsettling Lent is a devotional book published by Chalice Press.
“Unsettling Lent is not your ordinary Lenten devotional,” Chalice explains. “That’s a good thing, given the ways Lent’s radical meaning has been diminished by our culture’s false promotion of religious complacency. By connecting the biblical story to present-day realities, it invites Christians to make Lent a season of solidarity and justice-seeking. In contrast to devotionals emphasizing personal spirituality and interior transformations, Unsettling Lent emphasizes the public implications and communal aspects of self-denial, sacrificial love, and confrontations with power.”
With this devotional, you’ll be challenged each day to reconsider the biblical texts and what the story means in today’s religious and political environment. After the first few days that introduce Lent, the rest of the devotionals follow a new theme each week: announcing the kingdom, social challenges, crossing boundaries, conspiracies/plotting, social/political context, and then Holy Week.
Here’s how I explained what to expect in the introduction: “We hope you’ll be challenged to not let the biblical texts hide behind stained-glass windows and cute coloring pages. We hope these devotionals will challenge and even irritate you as you reflect on them. Because they did for us as we put them together. Thanks for joining us on this unsettling adventure during unusual times.”
Although Unsettling Lent is just $4.99, there are significant discounts for bulk orders. So it’s perfect to grab multiple copies for your Bible study group, Sunday School class, or even congregation. But Lent will be here before you know it, so order soon.
But be warned, the story of Jesus’s journey to the cross and the empty tomb isn’t a soft, cuddly children’s fairy tale. It’s so much richer than that. So let’s unsettle Lent this year. Grab your copy (or copies) today.
As a public witness,