I am reading a devotional book for Lent this year and the first few days it focuses on understanding why we give something up for Lent, including ways to decide what the thing might be… I am reminded of what it says in Joel to “rend my heart and not my garments.” I was at the gym the other day and I immediately began making a plan to rend my garments/my body…. and as I was reorienting myself later in the day to think of the Lenten season I was immediately convicted to rend my heart (Joel 2:1-2)
The author of the devotional writes, “An appropriate response to this announcement (John announcing Jesus is coming) is to take stock of our lives, to reconsider how we are living in light of God’s presence and power made available to us in Jesus. That is what Lent is for- to reflect on our lives on how they are and could be. Giving up a habit or a food or a pleasure is not distinctly Christian. People give things up in the name of self help all the time- or worse- vanity and even vengeance. The point of Lent is to reorient life Godward. This reorientation has to do with desert and wilderness. A ‘wilderness experience’ in our language usually means one has been gone for a while and now returns with new insight or perspective,’a new lease on life.’ Whether it is a trip to the third world, or a hike in the mountains, people are stripped of their usual comforts, removed from the safety of familiarity, and are forced to see the world from a different vantage point. Our aim during Lent is something like a wilderness experience. We want to shake up our lives significantly enough that when we reach our usual comforts and grasp a fistftul of air, we are forced to cling to Christ- his body, his blood. We want to see just how upside down our world really is as our ‘important things’ prove to perishable goods, and as our ‘busy’ lives are shown to simply lack wisdom. The point of giving things up is not to be reminded how much we miss them, but rather to be awakened to how much we missGod and long for his life- giving spirit. This means, of course, that Lent is not only about giving things up…”
I often struggle about what to give up- should I try to outdo the sacrifice I made last year? As I have been reflecting on Lent and what it means I realized there is a place I spend an enormous amount of time, and that is the place that would be the sacrifice… So I shut down my FB and deleted my instagram app from my phone. In the last 3 days while bored in the car, in my home, at the soccer field, at the gym, taking a walk- my hand automatically starts sliding through screens to find my beloved apps only to remember it’s Lent and they’re gone. And like the authors’ suggest, I don’t want to miss the apps, I want to cling to Christ.
Deep down I long for Lent to be a transformative experience- like the time I went to Burundi, Africa with David and our boys. Every year I hope for an experience that will “wow” the year before. And most years it’s the same… I give something up- I fill the time with something more beautiful, Lent ends, and I return to the same person I was… It’s like playing Candyland and getting to the end of the game thanks to the lollipop card and then pulling the wrong card and getting bumped back to the gingerbread….
I can’t help but wonder…. is life like the game of Candyland? Are we trying to get to the end? Is there an end? How do we know if we’ve “made it”?
Maybe my sin is in trying to measure my life by my own holiness…. by assuming it’s a road with an end in sight, and that I am journeying with others to the end- even trying to beat them!?
And so I come back to the purpose of Lent, to remember that I am no more holy – nor less- than the previous Lent season. I stand secure as a redeemed daughter of the living God- and more aware of my desperate situation as broken and completely unable to ever get it right.
I recently read a series of posts on FB about Lent- one person wrote that Lent is the time for us to make things right- to get our lives together and do well. I saw so clearly the whole message of Lent- it’s not about getting our lives together, giving up bad habits, or comparing sacrifices. It’s the time to remember that we continually and repeatedly cling to our humanity- to our securities- to our structures… and the reminder that those things will always fail. Even if our fears keep us from turning away, may we at the very least, know that we are living in fear, that we are still human, still broken, still completely in need of our Christ.
And, so, may we remember that
Lent is not an act, it’s not even the sacrifices in and of themselves, but the complete recognition of our brokenness.