It strikes me that we don’t make a lot of short-term commitments available in the Church. You take your baptismal vows, your confirmation vows, your wedding vows (for some, your ordination vows!), and once it’s done, it’s done. You’ve made the vows, they stand for all time, and the task before you is to live into them. Sure, some people engage in short-term missions trips, or engage in some specific undertaking with the Church for a specified time, but what about a formal, recognized, short-term commitment that anyone can make wherever they are, and dedicate themselves to a certain life/lifestyle for a period of time?
In some ways, this is what Lent is about – it’s about engaging in the formative spiritual disciplines of the Church in a deeper way than usual (some might even say, at an intentionally unsustainable level for longer than the Lenten season). What about if someone feels a tug at their heart to dedicate themselves more deeply, but it’s not Shrove Tuesday? What provision is there for the Church to really recognize their commitment?
In Israel there was such a provision. Any person, at any time, as an offering of thanks or as a commitment to a more holy life, could take the vows of the Nazirite. You can read the section of Numbers that talks about the Nazirite vow here. The point is, there was the opportunity for people to make a greater-than-usual commitment to the Lord, without the threat of living under the cloud of guilt over not upholding it for the whole of life. It was a short-term thing. If they found it too difficult, once tried, then they could choose a different option the next time around. It was (in many ways) a method for counting-the-cost of following God. Living in a more profound devotion and purity than usual.
It is sometimes suggested that the Christian faith hasn’t been tried and found lacking, but has been found hard and so not been tried. I don’t know if that’s fair, as I’ve met so many Christians who struggle daily to fulfill God’s desire for them. It has certainly been tried by some. What about you? How heartfelt is your commitment to the Lord? How deeply do you seek Him and His Kingdom in your life? If you’re worried about getting in over your head, say something. If the idea of a short-term commitment (a month? the Biblical 40 day period?) is appealing to you, say something. And let’s make it happen.