“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent. Day one of forty in the season leading up to Resurrection Sunday - Easter. Perhaps you grew up in a faith tradition that regularly celebrated Ash Wednesday, so this is a day that is familiar to you. Maybe not. Either way, keep reading because I have a new perspective for you this year. :)
Typically, we consider Lent to be a season of examination and discipline. It is a season in which people will give something up or pick up a new, healthy habit as a way to practice discipline, dedication, and reliance on God. Today, millions of Christians will attend services and receive a cross of ashes placed on their foreheads to the song of "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," - an outward remembrance of our own weakness as compared to our great, all-powerful God.
As a child, I remember giving up my favorite blanket for several years in a row (It just never got easier!). In more recent years, I've chosen to do things that make me healthier - like giving up desert, or deciding to go for a run everyday. I've had other years where I have chosen to do things that make me happier - like not using certain words, or intentionally restructuring and extending my quiet time with God each day. I've tried a lot of things, with great and noble plans to arrive at Easter a changed woman - stronger, better, and more faithful..... and I've always fallen short. Every. Single. Time.
Maybe this resonates with you. I'm here today to tell you: it's okay! You should DEFINITELY still set a goal today. Give something up or start a new habit. Decide today to give your attention more to God and less to other things. Really - do it! It's worth it! ...Just don't expect this goal or habit to be what perfects you. No sacrifice or habit of yours will perfect you. Jesus is the only one with the power to perfect... which is precisely what we celebrate on Easter. We celebrate the fact that we fall short but He never does.
Too often, we mistake Lenten sacrifices for New Year's Resolutions and we expect that what we do will make us better. We expect ourselves to resist every desert we see on a menu or never once give into the temptation to use our favorite four-letter word. And we expect to arrive at Easter Sunday a changed and perfected version of ourselves because of what we have accomplished in these forty days. This, my friends, is missing the point.
We are not capable of ruining Lent with our failures. We are also not responsible for making Lent what it is. We cannot earn the Resurrection. It is His sacrifice, His goodness, and His perfection are that make this season so important to celebrate. The only thing we need to do is set our hearts on seeking God, and when we fall down... get back up and keep going.
Lent is not a season about resisting temptation. It's about persisting in grace. Lent is not a season about resisting mistakes. It's about persisting in pursuing the heart of Jesus (even when we mess up midway through). Lent is not a season about resisting outright failure. It's a season about persisting toward something we can't do on our own because we don't have to.
Lent is not a season of resistance. It's a season of persistence.
Make a sacrifice. Set a goal. Share it with us so we can pray for you. Begin Lent with us today, while remembering the purpose of this season of discipline: amazing, victorious, unearned, persistent GRACE.