Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Lent is not about trying harder

The scene we witnessed as a student team was both beautiful and haunting, watching a devoted follower crawl through the streets of a large Central American city on hands and knees, a bleeding, thorn-crowned, impersonation of Christ. This happens all over the world this time of year, and we might find this both shocking and moving. Recently, we also saw 21 martyrs answer the call of Christ to face death rather than turn from him. These dramatic events cause us to tremble, and look at our own lives. What sacrifice am I being called to? Is daily faithfulness just as important and sacrificial? Perhaps God is not calling you to something that appears to be as difficult as these examples, but the daily surrender to grace can be difficult as well.

The idea of 'giving something up' for Lent is relatively new to me, coming from a church background that was not especially liturgical. But the idea fits my personality quite well, being the over achiever that I was for years.

This year, I arrive at the Lenten season tired. Can you relate? The year has just started, but do you look at your goals for the year and sigh, knowing you'll never quite meet them? This is the perfect storm for many of us to approach the Easter season with a works-righteousness mindset, myself included. Coming to Christ needy, rather than with something to offer, is just plain uncomfortable.  Does this mean that God might still be calling you to sacrifice greatly this year? Yes, of course, but our response should be obedience more than sacrifice. I often find myself signing up for more than God is ever asking of me. Like my goal to read through the Bible this year - not a bad thing, at all, but why? Motivation in all our actions is key. I'm not going to say my motivation in that goal was bad, but why then have I resisted the Spirit's prompting to let go of that goal, and rather just focus on one passage? One. Not exactly what this goodie goodie wants to hear. I'm finding comfort in that one passage, in this book, and in the resources listed below.

What is God calling you to this Lenten season? Is he calling you to give up worry (like me), to find rest for your soul? Is he calling you to give up consumerism, for the joy of simplicity and contentment? Is he calling you to really just give in to his love, rather than giving up in general, like you might be tempted to do? Can we see the joy of what he is offering, rather than the contrived self-sufficiency that only serves to make us weary?

May we all find relief in his sacrifice this Easter season, rather than striving for righteousness in a way that leads to death rather than life, guilt rather than glory, unnecessary pain rather than purpose, misery rather than marveling at his grace. Because it really is all about him, isn't it? Let go of your need to feel good about yourself with self-imposed deeds of righteousness, and instead, find your worth in having been chosen as the focus of his sacrificial love, before all time and eternity.  By HIS stripes we are healed, not our own.  That's where I'm camping out right now, and the view is amazing.

Additional resources to fill your soul, cover you with love, and release you from guilt...

Resources from Ann Voskamp for Lent (and why failing at Lent could be better)

Ann's weekly Multivitamins post - don't miss this!! Sure to delight and inspire.

She Reads Truth Lent series

The Fringe Hours - Finding Time for You (what if God is calling you to give up busyness, to better care for yourself?) and online book club to go along

Emily Freeman's blog - a space for your soul to breathe

Emily's podcast and Art of Simple podcast (both are fun and refreshing)

Beautiful Enya video - Perhaps the grace of our Savior will keep you singing?

(Photos from some lovely friends at our church in Florida - really missing the sunny people and weather up here in the frigid north...)

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