Lessons and Lent

Whoa! Wait a second. Lent?

No, I’m not Catholic.

(Which is the first statement I’ve received in response to me partaking in Lent. For the record, many other Christian denominations also practice Lent. I just never have.)

And yes, I gave up something to fast for Lent.

Jon and I both did.

For me, it was a personal decision.

Personal, as in a decision unique to my spiritual and mental state and, particularly, what was on my heart.

Here is why I (as a “non-denominational Protestant”, if I must be labeled as anything besides a Christ follower) chose to partake in Lent:

Easter should be the biggest celebration of the year within the body of Christ. Indeed, with most Christians it is.

Here’s my confession:

In years past, I have had a challenging time allowing myself to fully experience the events of the crucifixion on a personal level during the Easter season.

Gasp.

There. I said it.

Now let me explain.

I have a hard time preparing myself for the celebration of Easter.

It’s easy to fall into the “been there, done that” believer mentality.

You’ve been saved for years, you know the story, you have a daily relationship with God, you truly want to live a life that is pleasing to Him. You are God fearing.

As if, in some seasoned believer way, Easter no longer pertains to you.

It is supposed to the ONE day the entire body comes together and celebrates their risen Lord.

I love that Easter services draw so many people to the Lord.

My entire being rejoices at people responding to alter calls.

I rejoice in their salvation.

I am excited to welcome new believers into the family.

The realization that they need a savior is beautiful.

I lose my marbles.

It is deeply moving and worthy of celebration.

But my struggle is to prepare myself for a purposeful celebration of Easter without a sense of going through the motions. To really experience what the resurrection means to me, year after year, on Easter.

So I decided I would prepare myself with a fast. I was going to partake in Lent. Not because I had to. Not because I was following a rule or fulfilling a requirement. But because I felt led to. In my sacrifice I would have a daily reminder to think about Christ’s sacrifice for me. I would prepare my heart for a celebration. Because at the end of the pain and sacrifice, there is reason for a celebration. Overcoming is a reason in and of itself.  It gets you ready as an individual to celebrate as a whole with the body of Christ.

And, as a result of being open to what God has to teach you through the Easter season, you will undoubtedly take something away from your Lent experience.

With that being said, I learned something about myself.

I have learned that I am humbly aware of the my need of a Savior.

But sometimes my awareness is so fixated on my need for grace that I lose sight of the price it cost to pardon my sin.

Sometimes I don’t want my mind to go there.

I would rather bask in the glory of grace and forgiveness with the general knowledge of how it happened.

Because I can keep knowledge at a distance. I have a sense of control.

But remembering with my heart, with my emotions, is sometimes too much.

Too much for me to think that it was my sin that Jesus thought about on the cross.

He knew my name. He saw my sin.

It is so much easier for me to think that Jesus took upon himself the “sins of the world”.

It’s all of our fault. I’m not alone when I think of it that way. It lessens the severity of my sin.

It is diffusion of responsibility.

It is rationalization.

It is denial.

It is a lie.

The reality is,  Jesus knew my sin and still chose to die so that I may have eternal life.

My mind can’t even fathom a love like that.

And in my less-than-perfect existence, I am constantly reminded that I need a Savior.

I am saved.

By the grace of God, I am saved.

I wish that meant that I have overcome sin. That I didn’t have to constantly acknowledge my betrayal. That I didn’t always find myself at the foot of the cross, seeing a tortured Christ paying my price. A Christ that knew my sins. A perfect Christ, who chose to die so that I may live.

A love like that.

My mind can’t understand why.

My heart doesn’t have the capacity for the gratitude His death deserves.

I can’t repay Him. I don’t deserve it. I can’t even understand it.

I am powerless to do anything except humbly, humbly accept it.

And that takes me to a very uncomfortable place that I sometimes…accidentally…avoid.

A place of shame, remorse, sadness, anger and guilt.

Alone.

I stand at the foot of the cross alone.

Before a holy God.

I don’t deserve anything. I certainly don’t deserve forgiveness.

Because I had a part in His death.

You had a part in His death.

We all had our part.

The “sins of the world”.

Forgiveness.

Grace.

Mercy.

Hope.

Love.

And I am back out to the place where I am comfortable.

The place that has knowledge, deeply, that I need a Savior.

The place where I rest in God, my God, for all He is.

He is Good.

And though I don’t deserve it, He forgives.

Though I am not worthy of anything, He died in my place.

Easter takes me to that uncomfortable place. The foot of the cross. Jesus’ suffering. My sin.

This year I decided to embrace that uncomfortable place.

To allow Jesus to heal me from all of the guilt and shame I feel when I think about Him dying for me.

Because guilt and shame are not productive.

And because Jesus OVERCAME death.

He is risen.

I will celebrate.

I have eternal life.

I will celebrate.

I am free from the bondage of sin.

I will celebrate.

I am forgiven. I am rescued. I have a new life in Christ.

I will celebrate!

I now “get” what this Lent thing is all about. I will never celebrate Easter without it.

Through my self-denial, I was able to prepare my heart for a celebration.

And a risen Christ is most deserving of a celebration with my whole heart in it.

I hope this Easter was as meaningful to you as it was for me!

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