Lent has begun.
To be honest, I never got Lent. I went to Catholic school and everyone would debate what they were going to give up, but I never really understood how to turn this sacrifice (as if giving up potato chips or chocolate is sacrificial in the context of the man we were trying to emulate) into something spiritually meaningful.
Lent always felt…childlike. Like we could give up partying, smoking, or gluten and magically get right with God.
Somehow, I always felt this was not exactly what God had in mind when he sent his only begotten Son.
It’s taken a few years, but I am starting to understand.
In the weeks before Jesus started his ministry, he took himself into the desert. He fasted. He prayed – a lot. He faced temptation after temptation and was confronted by that wily, crafty wizard of self-doubt and destruction, Satan.
Like the rest of us, when faced with a major challenge, Jesus had to make sure he had the right stuff. He needed to prepare. He needed to focus.
And let’s make no mistake about it, willingly allowing yourself to go to the cross is not easy, even if it is for a noble cause like saving humanity, and even if you are already “right with God” given the divine circumstances of your birth. It isn’t something you can intellectualize then calmly watch unfold. Jesus knew that God had big plans and so he needed to prepare. He needed to dig deep.
Jesus needed to get crystal clear about his purpose. He needed to trust – completely and without reservation – that he had been called and that no matter what happened, God was with him
Jesus also knew that he did not have to do it alone. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:5)
There have been many times when I have been afraid, when I have doubted – myself, my family, God.
How can things have come to this, I ask? Why have I been forsaken? Why have my dreams all turned to dust? Why have all of the platitudes I have heard my whole life – work hard, get an education, be good, and you will find success – slipped through my fingers like so much sand?
I think it is because I do not understand. I do not understand my purpose. I have allowed temptations and self-doubt to cloud my judgement. I have not been strong in the face of fear. Unlike Jesus, too often, I have succumbed to to the obstacles and challenges placed in my path.
I am easily led astray. It doesn’t take much, either. Just a few false promises of comfort, security and public recognition and I am totally off course. I should be stronger than that.
And something I’ve come to realize is this: if I’d just stuck with God, like Jesus who was tempted with wealth and power, I’d probably get those things and then some because the promises made by Satan are always empty.
The way I see it, Lent is all about seeking clarity. It is a time to confront your fears, reaffirm your purpose, and recommit to your beliefs.
It is about clearing your mind and your heart of “sin” – misguided and incorrect thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.
In a way, it is about giving up things, in so far as the things we give up distract us from the much more challenging task of clearing out the mental crap we’ve accumulated. But like a gardener in the spring, once the trash is gone, we have to sew seeds and then tend the garden if we want to reap the harvest later on.
This year, for the first time in many years, I will participate in Lent. But I will not be “giving up” anything. My only desire is to take a closer walk with Jesus, to see his example in the desert not as an inevitable act of God, but the free choice of a man, who, like me, was not always certain that he could do what need to be done.
Getting closer to Jesus may mean I will consume less alcohol, biscuits, and other unhealthy foods. These are all distractions and lord knows with 5 kids, ill parents, and life on the road I have more distractions than the average girl.
And I have a lot of rubbish to clear. I also have some sewing to do if I am going to reap anything later on.
So I will pray more and spend less time on Facebook. I will try to be more faithful, less fearful, more accepting of myself and others.
Because after my season of Lent, like Jesus, I will have to fulfill my purpose. I think I am afraid to know what that purpose is and to see it done. I do not have a very good track record when it comes to achievement. I tend to drop out as soon as the going gets tough.
I am not very strong. Which is probably why I am so easily distracted by things that look “easy”.
I am also afraid. Of failure, of looking like a fool, of…not doing it “right”, whatever that means.
During Lent, I will let go of fear.
I will trust in His word, even when it seems easier to trust something else.
I know I have been called. I do believe that, if nothing else.
So I will listen for my name.
And as soon as I hear it, I will go.