Until now, I've known very little about Lent. I didn't live out Lent in my growing up years... back then I didn't know the how's or the why's of such a season. And even in my married years as the Cowboy and I are discovering the messy-beautiful of family, we have never thought upon Lent... until now that is.
So over the past weeks and months I've thanked God for Google and read to my heart's content and slowly we've been discovering the sweetness of it all. I've found books that have blessed me and swam through the experiences of others who are mere steps ahead of me.
Lent is not the giving up of chocolate, like I had once thought it was. In fact I'm starting to think that if I actually make it through all forty days of Lent without the chocolate then really all I've done is created a scene where I can pat myself on the back for a job well done, and in fact I find myself no closer to the Lord than I was before I started.
Thomas Merton once said it in a way that my heart can understand,
"We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial."
That indeed is not the point of this season.
It turns out (maybe I should of already known?) that Lent is not even in the Bible. Rather, it's a Catholic tradition based on the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert preparing to face His enemy.
And for us, the forty days before Easter are really an opportunity to prepare our hearts for the day of insane joy, the day when all our sins were washed away for all eternity. Lent is a season of reveling in the reality of how much we really need Him. And when the depths of us can truly grasp our need, then we gain this insane grasp in His beyond generous gift of unmerited favor.
I love the way she describes what Christ did for us as the "sacrifice on the grace-tree that made us worthy." Isn't that the cross; the place where reward is given to those who deserve punishment.. the grace tree, it's the only thing that makes us worthy. How sweet is that?
Lent and the forty days before the best day of the year, Resurrection Day, Crazy-beautiful Mercy Day, are about suffering, but not the kind of suffering that I once thought it was. Throughout the days of Lent, as we linger long on Christ's journey to the cross, we become increasingly aware of our sin and that awareness inevitably brings pain. But the pain is not there so that we might find ourselves boasting in our own suffering, nor is it there that we might stay stuck in our pain, but quite the contrary. The awareness of our own sin "enables Christ to suffer in us and give glory to the Father by being GREATER, in our hearts, than suffering itself would ever be."
We can't truly know the gloriousness of the cross, until we know the heinousness of our own sin.
So, is Lent just one, long, forty day cry fest? I guess it could be for some of us who need a real deep cleaning out of the soul.And if need be, I am more than willing to go there. But what I'm hoping for, for myself this season, is for an intimate plunge into my desperate need for my precious Savior. What I'm hoping for this season is a heart transformation and a deep-well of endless joy in the astounding truth that although I am lathered thick in sin scum, I have been power-washed in His crazy grace. Power-washes sting the skin, but they bring an unfathomable joy in the fact that what should have-been ( me up there in that cross), will never be, because Christ bared it all.
It turns out that Lent is actually pretty exciting. I love the opportunities He gives to draw me further into Himself.
#1 We're making ourselves an Easter tree. (Yes, we love trees around here... with our Jesse Tree and our Valentines Tree) At first I thought to make my own ornaments, but then decided that (this year at least) we would not try to reinvent the wheel when wonderful women have already prepared the way. Ann Voscamp has graciously offered printable ornaments along with a 17-day devotional that we will be using here in the farmhouse.
#2 The Cowboy and I are also reading through this book of Readings for Lent and Easter. One of us reads the night's devotion out loud and we talk about how we can grow closer to Him through the words on the pages.
I often wonder how it comes across to others when I post things that we are doing as a family to grow closer to Christ throughout the year. We are most certainly growing up together around here but I wanted to put it out there that these things we do are done in the realest of real places.
During last night's reading I told the Cowboy that Kierkegaard had written our devotional for the evening. And when I said His name, the Cowboy said,
"Why did you say bless you?"
"I thought you sneezed."
"I didn't sneeze. I was telling you the name of the guy that wrote the thing we're reading."
"You didn't sneeze? Well then, did you fart?"
And yes, I totally smiled because I think the Cowboy is hilarious and because the real us is far from being focused or some kind of crazy spiritual.
I'm telling you folks... Around here we want to know Jesus more than anything else in our lives. But there is nothing staunch or rigid about the ways that we dive in. Instead it's simply that, the diving in, the trusting that through His grace, He's faithful to draw us further into Himself.
That's Lent; us and Him and the soaking up of our desperate need for Him in this messy-beautiful life. And at the end of the forty day journey we will hopefully find our hearts bursting at the seams knowing that when He got off that grace-tree and rose on the third day, He gave us our very worth. :)