I’m having a hard time with Lent this year.
I want to be reflective and repentant—I want to prepare myself to experience the full joy and power of the Easter miracle—but instead I am anxious and tired and distracted. Some of that is for good reason. There are some challenging and important decisions to make, and some difficult processes to lead right now, and so I’m feeling the weight of my role these days.
But in other areas I’m surrounded by joyful and encouraging events in the ministries at our church. Kids are learning about Jesus in a meaningful way in our Sunday School, our men’s fellowship is growing together as we study and build friendships, three teams from our congregation are going out in service to Israel, Haiti and Romania, and this spring we have as many as 18 men and women coming for membership. I’m surrounded by these affirmations of our work, and yet it’s too easy to forget to pause and be thankful...or even simply to enjoy them.
Without trying to turn it into just another commodity or product, I’m aware that I what I want is to experience the full Lent moment right now. Maybe that’s what feels depleted or absent to me.
Henri Nouwen's reading for today says: "Life in the Spirit of Jesus is therefore a life in which Jesus' coming into the world—his incarnation, his death, and his resurrection—is lived out by those who have entered into the same obedient relationship to the Father which marked Jesus' own life."
Maybe the point is that I could not possibly feel less obedient right now.
I want to listen for God. I want to conform my life to the life of Christ (and not the other way around). I want to live in that “same obedient relationship to the Father which marked Jesus' own life.”
Maybe Lent is supposed to be this hard, and it just took me this long to realize it. What if the reflection and repentance that mark the season of Lent are meant to remind us that this life is not our own, that we are a purchased people, free and enslaved at the same time? What if these feelings are exactly the reminder I need—that we all need—of who we are and whose we are?
Nouwen’s prayer at the end of today’s reading includes these words:
Help me, Lord, to life a truthful life,
A life in which I am guided
Not by popularity, public opinion,
Current fashion, or convenient formulations,
But by a knowledge that comes from knowing you.
I want to live that truthful life. My prayer for myself and for you is that our lives will be guided by the knowledge that comes from being in the presence of God—knowledge that comes from knowing and being known by Jesus himself.
Just 11 days until Easter. God help us.