Deeper than the traditions and the fasting of Lent, there is a devastating beauty to the season that can draw you nearer to Christ. Don’t miss it.
I have observed Lent for as many years as I can remember. Giving something up, whether it was chocolate or Facebook, has been a yearly tradition for me since I was a kid. When I was young, I had no idea why I was giving things up. I mean, I’m sure I could have rattled off some facts about Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, Ash Wednesday, and Easter, but I didn’t grasp the greater reason behind it all. In those days, it was just tradition – something we did as a family as a part of our Christian walk.
It was a lot easier back then.
Because when I didn’t understand, I didn’t have to confront my own sin. I didn’t have to acknowledge the strongholds in my life and muster up the strength and self-discipline to destroy them. Following rules is easy for me. You want me to give up dessert for 40 days? I can do that. That’s surface level stuff. There was no reason to dive down into those places deeply embedded into my life that, quite honestly, I prefer to keep hidden (even from myself).
It’s easier for me to celebrate the joy of Jesus than to remember all of the dark, uncomfortable reasons why I so desperately need Him.
But you can’t have one without the other. What joy would there be in Jesus rising from the grave if I can’t fully grasp why He had to die for me to begin with?
Looking for the Ashes
Lent is no longer an annual tradition for me to check off of my list. It’s not a superficial time for me to give up dessert (and hopefully lose a few pounds in the process). It’s not about following the rules or wanting to impress others with my holy devotion.
Lent is a time for me to look over my life, my body, my health, my schedule, my habits, and my soul and search for the brokenness. It’s about stripping away the things distracting me from His glory, the crutches I unintentionally lean on, and the cheap substitutes I try to derive joy from instead of relying wholly on the Real Thing.
Lent is about spending a lot of time on my knees, literally next to my bedside, feeling the depth of my brokenness, repenting of my failures and shortcomings, and quieting the busyness of my soul to hear His still, small voice whispering grace.
How is Lent Drawing You Nearer to Jesus?
I don’t really care if you are giving up fast food, social media, or fasting every Friday (that was one of the most impactful practices of Lent for me). I mean, I do care and I will do anything I can to support you in following through with your commitment, but that’s not where the importance lies.
To make Lent more than just an annual observance, it has to be about relationship building. So, you’re giving up chocolate? Awesome! Good for you! How is that drawing you nearer to Jesus?
Maybe in those moments of sadness, boredom, or loneliness that you’re used to reaching for a candy bar, you now turning to Him in prayer or worship. That is relationship building.
Maybe you are building your self-control, training yourself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). That is relationship building.
Maybe giving up that something that might seem like a little thing is raising your awareness of how much you depend on other little things in life rather than the Lord. That is relationship building.
Don’t get caught up in the lie that if you work hard enough giving up such and such during this time that God will love you more. That goes against the very nature of His unconditional love and feeds your perfectionism more than your faith (I’m speaking from a lot of experience here).
I Need Thee Every Hour
Instead of getting caught up in what you are doing for Lent this year, I hope you spend time thinking about why you are doing it.
When you find those broken places in your life (which you will…if you don’t, you’re not looking hard enough!), lean into that desperate need for more Jesus. Don’t run away in shame. Don’t hide your inadequacies. Instead, see your need and invite Him to fill it.
That is how He turns our ashes into something beautiful and life-giving.
My church in Tucson used to have the most beautiful Ash Wednesday service. We turned the lights in the sanctuary off and lit the room with hundreds of candles. In the silence at the beginning and end of the service, we had a slideshow play, simply consisting of words that would fade onto the screen. I reflect back on those words every year.
This season is a reminder of both my sinfulness and His holiness. It’s not only seeing, but feeling that deep, unquenchable need that can only be satisfied by You.
It is something that is devastatingly beautiful and I hope and pray you don’t miss it.