This is a tough one for many of us Christians. And as a chronic over-thinker it drives me to the brink. I mean this is serious business. Seriously. As Christians we are marking the last 40 days(ish) leading up to Easter when Christ DIED FOR US. Seriously - how much more serious can we get here? This is IT - THE REASON FOR IT ALL. Did I mention how serious this season is?
Let me just say that I am not making fun of my faith or those who choose to follow it with me. (Ok - maybe just a little.) It is just that Lent is HARD. It is not happy like Christmas. We don't give each other gifts and look forward to the birth of a baby and sing happy songs. Although we can all whine about how both Christmas and Easter have been tragically commercialized. But I digress...... Lent by it's very nature is solemn and dark and contemplative. Like Advent it is a season of anticipation - but what we are anticipating is kind of difficult to wrap our heads around. See if you can follow this with me..........Jesus DIED for us - by choice. And this is heart-breaking and humbling because why would He die for Me? But then again, wait, no, it's not sad because now we have new life in Christ - the ultimate second chance and that is a cause for great joy!! I sometimes feel like I get whiplash going back and forth between these thoughts.
I have been a Christian all my life - and I still don't have it all figured out. For instance....how do we celebrate Lent? Or is it even a celebration? Maybe I should say, how do we observe Lent? It is supposed to be serious right? Or should we even bother with Lent? I grew up in a tradition where Lent is regularly celebrated/observed (you decide which word you like). But as I got older I realized that many Christians don't bother with Lent. They think it is unnecessary or narcissistic or too Catholic (gasp). As Protestants anything Catholic is the ultimate example of what NOT to do in Christianity. My apologies to my many beloved Catholic friends and family. You better know I am being utterly sarcastic here. I love you and I think you rock. Just pointing out what I have observed. And I am a Methodist. We love everybody - whether we should or not. Jesus said to, so there.
So, anyway, for those of us who do observe Lent - just how do you do it? Many of us give up something for those 40(ish) days in honor of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. I can offer many examples of how I have failed in the approximately 30 years I have made a point of "doing" Lent. I have with varying degrees of success (none 100%) tried giving up television, coffee, soda, chocolate, cussing, desserts and so on. In later years I have tried being more mindful and instead of giving up something I have attempted to ADD something to my daily routine. Yeah - that hasn't gone so well, either. I really do love God. And I really am eternally thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me. But if He is grading my gratitude on how well I have observed Lent then I am afraid I am an abysmal failure.
And, as if Lent isn't hard enough there are other Christians out there who will tell you that you are doing it wrong. It is a sad reality that Christians can be really mean and judgmental and well, down-right UN-Christian to each other. They will tell you that either what you choose to sacrifice or add on is not good enough. Or they tell you how you go about observing it is not the "correct" way. Do we keep what we are doing just between ourselves and God? Do we share it with a trusted a friend? Do we tell anyone how it is going? Does that make the narcissism argument true? In today's world...are we missing the point if we share anything about it on Social Media? Or are we being honest and real in sharing a part of our faith journey with others? Aren't we supposed to do Christian life in community? What about accountability? What about people like me who feel like we are letting Jesus down when we realize three whole days have passed and we forgot to read our devotional? Do I just tell God or do I confess to a friend and keep trying? Please tell me it counts if we get caught up and keep trying!!!!
I feel that I have to say this here. Because I know this is to be true with my deepest being - God and Jesus have NEVER been as hard on me as I am on myself. Thank HIM/THEM for that. Amen and Amen. I have come to believe that for me - doing/celebrating/observing Lent is an important part of my personal faith tradition. It is good for me to make a point every year of being intentional about observing my faith. During Lent that means being reminded of my Christian story and remembering what Christ has done for me. Which, seriously, was HUGE. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." If I really let myself sink into that thought it makes me weep. I don't deserve it. But I am grateful for it. And, even though, I always feel like I will never get Lent "right", I don't ever want to give up trying to let God know I love Him. I can never repay what has been given to me by giving up chocolate for six weeks or reading my Bible daily for six weeks or doing pretty much ANYTHING for six weeks. And God knows that. He also knows that I need many opportunities to get things right. I am grateful He has given me many, many Lents to try, however inadequately, to do something good. God-willing I will have many, many more Lents to keeping trying for Him.
So, how am I failing at...errr, observing Lent for 2015? I will tell you because it helps me be accountable and, yeah, maybe it is a bit narcissistic, but I will let God judge that because, like I said, He is much nicer to me about stuff like that than I am. This year I am participating in Rethink Church's Photo-A-Day Project. Feel free to check out the link. I like it because it makes me think - and it is intentional - and it is fun. And I even read here that is ok to have fun during Lent. (#mindblown) Assuming I make today's post before midnight I will be three for three - for the first three days of Lent with only 40-ish more days to go. Given my history chances are good I will play catch-up up with photos for a few of those days. But God knows my heart - and He knows I will keeping trying. And that makes it worth it to celebrate/observe Lent once again this year.
'Til Next Time.