“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented Himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.” (Romans 5:6-8, The Message)
I didn't think twice about Lent until we moved to rural Catholic Ireland in 2008, when it still seemed like everybody—including my 6-year-old little boy upon arriving home from school—declared a traditional belief in “to dust you shall return” by bearing the ashen cross on their foreheads at the starting gate of Lent. I think a part of me fancied this notion, this obvious display of faith (or rather, if I were to be honest, of religion).
Now, I cannot remember what I “gave up” for Lent that first year, but I'm pretty sure it was chocolate, and I'm more than sure it was short-lived (it should be noted I was pregnant at the time!). My noteworthy failure at abstaining for a few short weeks left me disturbed by my apparent weakness, lack of self-control and inability to maintain a true sacrificial faith.
For someone who’s never stepped foot in the “high church,” I find something sort of romantic about the church calendar and the seasonal practices of Lent. For some, it’s the collaborative companionship of spending our days in scattered, sacrificial unity with the global church. I’m encouraged and inspired by their devotion, to give up that which distracts from—or put on that which brings us closer to—understanding Christ in His sufferings.
But for me it’s a bit more insular…maybe even a bit selfish.
Ash Wednesday and the following 40 days signal a starting block, a fresh start of connection, a New Year for the soul. I feel Jesus beckoning me, inviting me into deeper communion—or, some years, any communion—with Him. And this year is one of those years. I feel myself stumbling towards Lent in anticipation of that long-awaited invitation to be with Him, without realizing no invitation is needed at all.
He’s been waiting this whole time.
I can postpone spiritual disciplines for that magic time of devotion without distraction, but that time will likely never come. And I can put off communion with Him only so long before I’m parched in the desert without a flourishing relationship with the Father to keep me fed.
It’s not about timing with the Lord; He exists where time does not. But it is about time with Him, and not a moment too soon.
Warmly in Christ,
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12, NIV)
What new spiritual disciplines can you “put on” during the Lenten season? Try a new form of prayer and meditation (perhaps from Biola’s Center for Christianity Culture and the Arts), experience and research a type of sacred art (maybe in your local cathedral or national museum) or sign up for a daily devotional.
Have you been waiting on the perfect or best time to be still before the Lord? What’s keeping you (or distracting you) from running to Him now?