I will admit, I don’t really know what to do with Lent this year. “Umm…shouldn’t you have thought about this sooner,” you say. I have. I’ve thought about it a lot, long and hard and I’m still not sure as I write these words.
I didn’t grow up in a culture that practiced Lent, but I have participated for several years as an adult, however. This year, I’m just not sure how to approach it. Since last year, I have experienced Inner Healing Prayer and have been freed from co-dependency in a most amazing way! There is a new freedom in Christ and in me that I love!
So now what? I know Lent is not a biblical command or even suggestion. I know participating in Lent doesn’t save me, make God like or love me any more or “get” me anything from God—no extra star in crown. Got it. I also already know I was a sinner, loved by my amazing Creator, and saved from eternity without Him, and that my eternal life started the minute I cried out to Him to save me. I don’t want to wallow in my sin and be sorry for them. They are done. If He doesn’t see them or remember, why should I? And I am no longer that same orphan. I am a daughter of the King, a co-heir with Christ!
So back to Lent. What to do? I can participate or not. My college friend mentioned an online Lenten Retreat she was interested in attending. Hmmm…an online retreat? What on earth? I checked it out and enjoyed both the website and the author, who is a Methodist priest and artist in residence. I LOVE her work. Love it. It resonates within me and makes me want to run to my palette knife, canvas and easel. What I appreciated about her intro to the retreat were Jan Richardson’s words about Lent:
From the rending of Ash Wednesday to the resurrection of Easter Sunday, the path through Lent encompasses every aspect of who we are. Most of all, Lent invites us to know how completely God loves us, and to let go of all that would keep us from recognizing, receiving, and responding to that love.
Letting go of all that would keep us from the Love of God? Yes, please. This is a Lent I could get behind, that I could be a part of, meditate upon. Not giving up wheat, sugar, caffeine, fast food (I already did that last month!), but giving up that which I try to hold onto that keeps me from “recognizing, receiving, and responding” to the complete love of God.
And in Ann Voskamp’s words that I nod in agreement:
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God.
I pull my favorite Lenten Devotional, Bread and Wine, off the shelf and read the introduction.
“We ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. …put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ…Lent is a good time so…let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like…He (Jesus) reveals the appalling strangeness of divine mercy and the Love from which it springs. Such Love could not stay imprisoned in a cold tomb. Nor need we, if we truly surrender our lives to it.”
And so, I am ready to let go. I am ready to let go of what is holding me back from receiving all He has for me—all His love, His promises, Him. I want all that He is willing to give, if only I will receive it. I am ready to celebrate Lent–to admit my weakness and rejoice in His power and strength; to acknowledge my lack in all I do on my own and marvel at the abundance of grace and mercy in all He does; to confront my shortcomings and realize His overcoming. I am ready to meet the One who Isaiah prophesied (Is. 61:1-3):
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
So today, on Ash Wednesday, I am ready for him to give me a garland instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of fainting, so that He may be glorified. I am ready to decrease so He may increase. Blessed be the name of the Lord!