Lent Is Not About Me

Although I grew up in the Methodist church and probably went to a lent service or two, I vaguely have any memories of it. Even if I went, I’m sure I did not have a clue what was going on.

lent

“Uhhh…are we supposed to give something up for lent like I did FOREVER when I was Catholic?”


“Yes, your IPhone.” (me)

“Bahaha! Ok…seriously…my pits are sweating and the memories of my upbringing is beginning to fan the flames of condemnation. I haven’t thought about what to give up?!?! I didn’t think Baptist did this-that is was a ‘Catholic members only club’ thing. I am just not prepared. They didn’t discuss this in our PVCC Church 101…I just feel unprepared”

The above message is a conversation that I had via text with a close friend of mine who is new to the Protestantism. (This is my same friend who asked if we have a “Baptist” bathing suit that she needs to purchase.) LOVE HER!!! Why in the world our church is having conversations about lent was very confusing to her.

No, you do not have to observe lent; you do not have to “give something up” in order to be in the club. On that note, just a reminder there is nothing we did to be a part of the club in the first place. Similarly, there are no dues we have to pay to remain in the club.

Initially I was very hesitant about “giving something up” because it starts to make me get all uncomfortable and legalistic sounding, and I don’t know what to do with it. The other reason for my skittishness is due to the fact that I generally fail at keeping resolutions of any kind at all. However, the Lord revealed to me how much I loved a certain something – too much. It became clear that I think I deserve this form of comfort, and even sometimes plan my life around making sure it happens.

Six hours into my “giving up” something, I caved. I told you I was bad at this. Epic failure??? Wait! Then, I realized that my failure is in some way the whole point of lent. It’s not about being perfectly self-controlled and awesome. No, the point is that even when you try “to do the good you want to do,” as Paul said in Romans 7, “You do what you don’t want to do.”

I’m really bad at lent; this is simply one more reason as to why I so desperately need Jesus. I couldn’t keep God’s law perfectly. I’ve not loved God with all of my heart, soul, and mind, and I’ve certainly not always loved my neighbor as myself. I’m a sinner who has fallen short in every regard. I’ve not just failed at lent, but I’ve failed in meeting all of God’s holy standards.

My response? Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for showing me once again that I am weak – that I often enjoy TV more than I enjoy you. That I often run to grab the remote before I grab your Word. Thank you that you are always on the station of GRACE.

Let us not make this season of lent about us.

“I gave up my I-PHONE, so I am so getting sticker on my Jesus chart.”

“I am so committed. I am so faithful. I am all over this sacrificing thing. I am so zealous.”

No. May this season of lent, we get over the “I’s” and lift our eyes to the throne and say, “I NEED YOU JESUS.”

Goodbye, Bravermans

ash
“Mommy, WHAT is on your forehead?”

How do I explain ashes to a very confused four year old? How do I tell her of frailty and mortality?

“Honey,” I say, “this is a reminder.”

Ellie says, “A reminder?” She’s obviously still confused, although very aware of her mother’s forgetfulness (keys, phone, wallet, school papers, etc.).

I reply, “Yes, a reminder that mommy needs Jesus.”

She says, “But MOMMY, you already have Him.” (Score! At least she recognizes that I “have Jesus,” because I’m sure that some days she has to wonder).

Then I say, “Yes, I have Jesus, but sometimes mommy forgets that I need Him every day – even this very moment. These ashes on my head remind mommy that I am not a superhero, and I am in need of rescuing. Jesus rescues me!”

Why Ashes?

Living in the land of entitlement where we feel as though we deserve the car we are driving, the house we are living in, the food we are enjoying, and the entertainment we are consuming, we need to be somberly reminded that the only thing we actually deserve is hell. We are entitled to God’s wrath and judgment; after all, Romans 6:23a teaches us, “the wages (or payment) of sin is death.”

I will confess that so many times, I think God owes me comfort. I deserve to sit here, watch Parenthood, and eat my popcorn because I worked hard today. “God, I did laundry all day; I deserve to sleep well tonight.”
bravermans

In a dark sanctuary lit only in candles – singing songs of brokenness and repentance – I would join a line of other sinners, who like me, were in need of a reminder. It was our sin; it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

Looking into a mirror, I take the ashes and paint my forehead with a cross. From dust I came and to dust I will return. No, I am not immortal. I will die. Someday soon I will find myself lying in a casket. Looking in the mirror, I pray that I would see myself for who I truly am – a sinner in need of grace. But there is more to it than that. I was not left to merely be consumed as ashes, but Christ covered me with beauty through pouring out His blood on the cross.

There is something bittersweet about mourning. My husband tells me I am really good at mourning. Lament could possibly be my spiritual gift. I find myself thinking and turning my thoughts towards why I sin. Oh how often I feel the heaviness of sin, and I cannot wait to see heaven’s gates open up. Then, and only then will I no longer have the desire to bow down to other loves. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for my sin, and He has not wrath remaining for me. Therefore, I can run freely to His throne. I don’t have to hide my sin; He knows it all, and yet He still loves me – and it’s all because of Jesus.

Mourning may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

And so we turn off our television set, not to show how much self-control we have, or even that we are keeping ourselves from something the Lord has given us to enjoy. No, we turn of the tube to ask the Lord to remind us that all we really need is Him, and that all things are a gift, even watching the Bravermans.