It’s the fifth Sunday of the Lenten season. I see the Lenten Roses bow their heads by our cobblestone walkway. I love this season. It’s one of my all-time favorites of the spiritual seasons on the calendar. I talk a big talk of repentance, renewal, refreshing and a reset. But the truth is, I don’t feel like I’ve embraced Lent as much this year.
Last year I gave up pop-corn (except on Sundays –which I was thrilled to read somewhere that Sundays are a celebration day and fasting is lifted!!) . I’m pretty sure it’s a food addiction so I thought that was pretty sacrificial on my part. Just typing that sounds so lame but I’m being real here. Some have given up coffee, sugar, or wine– while another gave up complaining.
Whatever we come up with, the goal is to allow ourselves to feel some real loss so that our minds have a chance to hunger for something more important. It’s a time to refocus on the passion of Jesus as He journeyed to the cross as well as more fully celebrate– with a renewed passion of our own– the power of His resurrection.
As I look back on the first 4 weeks of Lent, I can’t think of anything I’ve given up or fasted from. I wish I had a glowing report to tell you but I don’t. I’ve hardly read my favorite book of readings for Lent and Easter (Bread and Wine) and I haven’t been to any of the local services at the church I usually visit during this season. My thoughts have been all over the place.
I know Lent is not about rules and regulations, or one of the 10 Commandments or even mentioned in the Bible but it’s a special time for me to stop and reflect about the agonizing sacrifice Jesus paid for my freedom and forgiveness …and I was beginning to feel like i was experiencing a Lenten fail.
Truth is …that’s exactly what Lent can do for you.
This season can remind you that you really can’t measure up and sometimes your own expectations for yourself can become your worst enemy.
That’s when you know it might be a good time for a retake!
This season is not just about putting off — it’s about putting on good things …like humility, patience, being more intentional about spending time with God, being active in compassion for the hurting and broken, taking hold of things that matter to God’s heart, getting out there and actually doing something to help others, etc.
God has placed me right in the heart of the city and more recently has launched me into a new adventure of being a part of a team facilitating devotional opportunities in several locations in our surrounding area. We’re studying the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 at each site. We repeat the same material throughout the week at different locations with a different group of people and I think I’m the one beginning to get it!
The Holy Spirit is teaching me and taking me deeper and deeper into God’s word through the backdoor of teaching others. As we lead others through, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” yet another time, I learn more of the heart of God in these words. It’s as if they become another piece of clothing to put on.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness — for they shall be filled” becomes a deeper longing of my heart to truly hunger and thirst after God as if my life depended on every drop and morsel from His hand. Turns out– it does! I’m learning this is the only hunger that will lead to a truly filled heart …satisfied …contented.
Jesus says to desire and pursue all of these qualities listed in the Beatitudes. It’s not a pick and choose scenario. These represent His character and are meant to be modeled by those who are His followers.
God is teaching me that it’s always a heart issue and matters of the heart are the ones that spill out on those around us…whether good or bad. Jesus teaches His longest recorded sermon on the heart condition and how a heart like His should beat out of its chest with a life-giving blood flow– pumping out the love the Jesus to others through a life that lives His love.
I’m praying more for the qualities of Jesus to be seen and lived out in me. It’s a work only God can do as He places on me …“beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…” and we will then be “called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)
And the retake of the season reveals an uptake of truth. His mercies are new every morning …He’s faithful even when I’m not … His faithful love endures through all my ups and downs …His grace never fails to surprise me …I am His and He is mine. And because I belong to Jesus Christ, I’m not condemned.
So I’ll go with the retake and thank God yet again for His grace that never runs out and His mercy that’s new every morning and His love that reaches beyond any of my epic failures. I’ll run with patience the race He has marked out for me and remember that what I think is a failure may be a chapter of one of His greatest success stories.
Spring reminds me. Lent reminds me. What feels like dry, barren land can crack open and give way to hope …hope of new beginnings …new growth …a fresh start.
New birth …Living hope …
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.