I have been thinking a lot about Lent this year. What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What are those things in my life that are the obstacles and road blocks to a deeper and more satisfying relationship with Christ? What are those things I have been making excuses about that I should really get off my lazy butt and just start implementing? What am I worried about? Anxious? What are my burdens? Fears? What makes me alive? Where do I see beauty in the word? Darkness? Where do my passions and the worlds deepest longings meet – and how am I daily helping to pour into that?
Rachel Held Evans on her blog gives 10 helpful questions to ponder during the lenten season:
1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that habit over the next 40 days?
3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?
4. What practical steps can I take to carve out time for daily contemplation?
5. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve upon or want to try?
6. What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t? Can I give one or two of them up for 40 days?
7. Why am I giving this particular thing up? How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?
8. What am I going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?
9. Is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature my fast with others or should I keep it private?
10. What do the ashes mean to me this year? What does baptism mean to me this year?
But then I got overwhelmed by all the questions. I mean, they are REALLY GOOD questions, don’t get me wrong. But I realized – that’s what I’ve been doing for so long. I was raised in a way that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, I viewed faith as a very legalistic thing where I had to ask these questions, follow these steps, and then my faith would be good enough.
So for lent, I decided to give up lent. Get it?
I look at the foothills in my backyard at least once a day – not as a discipline, but because they are beautiful and I can’t help but stare at them. Driving home at the end of each day I can’t help but miss right when the light turns green because I am frequently captivated by the sunset that is partially blinding me as I stare at the road before me. And I realized that this is what it is all about. Just being. Just living in the moment. Appreciating what is and not always trying to make it something more.
Every Saturday I meet with a group of three other women to talk about life and love and pain and challenges and sorrows and defeat. There are few people I would rather share daily life with. Sipping coffee, laughing, and hearing their stories is often the highlight of my week. I see God in their stories, in being in their presence, and in being part of this journey with them.
If I tried to turn looking at the foothills into a daily exercise of discipline during Lent – I would stop looking at them on a daily basis and they would lose some of their splendor. If I made coffee with the girls a “meeting” I HAD to be at every Saturday rather than a ritual I am proud and honored to be part of, it would lose part of its wonder. I’m not saying disciplines and planned action are bad – I’m just saying that experiencing God for who God is in the moment that you are living is a pretty beautiful thing. Surrendering from TRYING so hard to be the person that you think you should be and just being who you are is the unpracticed discipline of surrender. That’s what I need more of – surrendering to the messiness of life.
Cause the God who made those foothills and drinks coffee on Saturday mornings is pretty crazy awesome. And that God reveals layers of characteristics and faithfulness on a daily basis just by showing up in that sunset or conversations or laughter. Sometimes I think I try to conjure up the perfect recipe for God to appear when God is already there.
I’m done trying to be perfect by Easter. It has never worked before. So this time I think I’m just going to be me. Simple, old, broken me. And I think that’s all God wants. God’s appreciated my efforts of starting and stopping things for the lenten season in the past – but I think we’ll enjoy just being together these next 40 days. No incessant questions, no mind-games, no pretension, no pretending….just me – just God – just us.