Ah, this lent thing.
I keep slipping. I forget. I get frustrated. I have even had someone close to me laugh at me for doing it. "What? We don't practice lent. What in the world? Why are you doing that? I guess next you are going to have a black X on your forehead." When I tried to explain - "cricket's chirping". While I know the words were not meant to wound, I allowed them to slice clean and deep. It hurt.
This person was right. Our church background had not observed lent in the past. We are not a liturgical church. But lately, in my quest for renewal, I have had such a strong desire to draw closer to God and what I understood of Lent seemed like a good way to do that. I wanted to deny myself of something to remind me of what He gave for me. I wanted to enter into a sacred commitment that would cause me to depend on Him more. I wanted to do something that required more than what I normally give. I wasn't really sure what to expect.
But I know I didn't expect I would fail so soon.
I failed on the second day. What I had given up, what I had determined to sacrifice for 40 days, what I had promised to deny myself of in order to draw closer to God, well, I forgot. I forgot. On the second day I forgot all about it.
As I have been reading through my Bible in a year plan, I have spent the last several weeks in Leviticus and Numbers. Boring. Slow, Redundant. Legalism to the nth degree. So many laws to keep. So many rules. So much blood. So much sacrifice. So many harsh consequences for sin - intentional sin and unintentional sin. The Israelite people weren't allowed to forget the law. Many times as I have read the daily scripture allotment (without skipping any words), I have thought to myself: I am so glad I didn't live back then. I am so glad I don't have to try to keep all those rules. I couldn't do it. Are you kidding? I now know that by day two in the wilderness I would most likely have already been struck dead.
And that was when I realized that is precisely the point. I can't do it. I can't keep the law perfectly. Nobody can. We need a Savior. We need grace. We need the sacrificial Lamb that takes away all the sin in the world. We need an advocate, One who willingly paid the price of all the sin, all the wrong, all the forgetting. He did it for me. I am off the hook. I am saved by grace and grace alone! I am not going to be judged because I forgot a law. I don't have to keep a tally of all the rules. My relationship with Jesus is all I need. What a sweet relief! What a debt of gratitude I owe.Practicing Lent is teaching me how inadequate I am and how adequate He is. It is teaching me how much Jesus loves me.
Oh this Lent thing. It is hard.
But it is good.