Hi, I’m new to Lent. This, in fact, is my first year out of the Baptist church and my first attending an Anglican fellowship.
So, I’m relatively inexperienced with this Lent thing. Sure, I have friends in churches that observe a more formal church calendar, so I’ve had a peripheral knowledge of things like Lent, Advent, etc. But I hadn’t actually been part of a body of believers who observe these holy seasons.
We’re still officially church hunting, but for several weeks have been going to a small Anglican church plant. After an encouraging sermon explaining Lent, I planned to take on a discipline for Lent. Since I’m endeavoring to write more frequently, I figured a good thing would be writing daily, especially positive, faith oriented material. Maybe even write about the chronological gospel reading I’m doing to lead up to Easter…
I’ve struggled with what to give up. Facebook? Already stopped it for the most part a few weeks back. I already gave up regular soda last year when I started losing weight. I gave up my nightly glass of wine at the same time.
Coffee? No. Sorry. Just not doing it… Plus, that small church plant? Meets at a coffee shop. Sundays would be unbearable if I dropped coffee. I am, however, dropping my $5 a pop sweet, calorie rich, fancy coffee drinks. I’ll stick with plain coffee with cream and sugar, instead. That wasted coffee money could be put to better use in a number of ways. Oh, and I’m dropping my guilty pleasure of Top 40 music. Sorry, Taylor and Iggy… See you after Easter.
I didn’t feel led to give up terribly much… But I did want to embrace Lent as much as possible. The liturgy of the Anglican tradition has been energizing and healing. I was inwardly very excited about this season.
So, giving up fancy coffee drinks, my secret pleasure of Top 40 music, and taking on writing daily and reading the Gospels. Good start for a Lenten noob, right?
Yesterday we lightly observed Shove Tuesday.
And by lightly, it was kinda not planned, and the kids wanted waffles, not pancakes. But, the homeschooling mom that I am, spent time explaining Shove Tuesday, the tradition of pancakes, and the meaning of Lent.
I felt like I had a Lenten win! My 8 year old wants to give up chocolate for Lent. Cool. I fairly confident she understands the meaning and reason.
So, I’m doing good, right?
I wake up on Ash Wednesday ready to take on the season. No meat today (or Fridays), be more spiritually aware, read my daily Gospel passage, and write. I can do this! Even without getting to attend an Ash Wednesday service (ugh… Frustrating, but not possible today due to a prior commitment), I’ll be fine!
Except that today started rough. The kids didn’t want to cooperate with homeschool work. I kept trying to write, yet I was constantly interrupted. My son wouldn’t listen. I yelled and lost my cool. I didn’t really think about this no meat thing today… We’re practically carnivores in this house and my lack of meatless meals in my pantry… Sigh.
Fail. Big fat fail. And right on cue, that inner voice starts reminding me that I’m a screw up. I’m not going to accomplish my goals… why try…I can’t even make it through the first day of Lent without messing this up, too. And I fall into that trap of worthlessness. And it feels like a heavy weight. Chains, so to speak.
And after an hour or so in my funk, I begin to process the situation and realize that I need to actually give up this futile quest for perfection. I’ve made progress the last couple years, but it’s still a burden. Perfection is my enemy.
This season of Lent should remind me that there was only one perfect person. His sacrifice on the cross should remind me that my chains are gone and I’ve been set free. Oh to be reminded that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)!
In my singular quest to do Lent the right way, I missed the forest for the trees. There isn’t a checklist to be a good Christian observing Lent. That is legalism and is crushing. It’s what I’ve slowly been working for 20 or more years to get away from.
Lent is not a list of things to do or not do. Lent should be instead a state of mind that gives us reminders of God’s great love for us and Christ’s sacrifice for us. In dying to self, we are reminded of His dying for us.
I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes and will continue to do so. That internal condemnation I hear so often and struggle with is not who I am. Instead I was bought with a price, redeemed, and am loved by my Saviour more than I can even fathom.
That’s what I need to hold to today, this Ash Wednesday, and throughout this Lenten season… How great my Saviour’s love for me and that through Him, I have worth, I have forgiveness, and I have freedom. I am His, and I am loved.