For Those of Us Who Need to Give Up Our Striving This Lent

March 1, 2017

As I write this it is a dawning of Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent.  The time of year when so many of us give up desserts or meat or coffee or social media.  Or we recommit to a discipline instead, like morning devotions or excercise or a daily writing practice.  Some of us will wear ashen crosses on our foreheads today, as a symbol of our mortality, that we are but dust. And these are all good things.  In Mathew 6, the Lord does not say if you fast, but when you fast.  Fasting is good.  It's an opportunity to quiet our hearts and deepen our walk of faith, to prepare ourselves for the beautiful juxtaposition of greif and joy at Easter.

But the truth I so easily lose sight of, the truth that I need to hear every single one of these 40 days, nay, every single one of these 365 days, is this:  There is not a thing you or I can give up or add to our lives, not a single thing we can deny ourselves, that will make our Father in heaven love us more. 

No religious observation, no fast or feast, no prayer or devotion or sacrifice can cause the maker of the universe to increase in love towards us.  Because his love is one with his very being and there is never a moment that God is not love. 

Any lenten practice that I engage in that is not steeped in that truth misses the point of the cross. 

Perhaps, like me, you know in your mind of God's perfect and unearnable love, but you struggle to believe it in your heart.   Perhaps you still catch yourself looking desperately around you for evidence that a holy God could bask in joy at the thought of you.  But He does.  

Perhaps, like me, you are so often tempted to trivialize the perfect work of Christ on the cross by striving and failing to earn God's mercy, to buy his love with acts of sacrifice and devotion.  But we can't.

This season of repentance, this holy season of reflection and self-sacrifice, this pushing back of our greedy instincts and self consuming desires for 40 days leading up to the glorious remembrance of Christ's death on the cross and triumphant rise again is a good good thing.  It is good for our hearts that wander easily from the presence of God.  But it will not buy us a single ounce of His love. 

The stark and chilling beauty of the cross is that there is not a damn thing we can do to deserve it.  Lent is a season of self-denial, not so that we can earn the warm compassion of our maker, but so that we can come to the cross the only way we mortals can: empty handed. 

Lent begins in the cold dark days of winter and ends in the fresh sun-soaked days of spring. It's a redemption season, of sorts, awakening the world and the ground, and our hearts.  A symbol of the God who meets us in the darkness and loves us into the light.  

Friend, go ahead, give up that thing for lent.  Or don't.  Whatever the spirit leads you to do.  But either way, let us give up our striving this lent.  Let the coming 40 days be a reminder that God is radically, passionately, intently for you.  That his love rests on you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Not because of what you've done, but because of what He has done on the cross.

We are but dust.  And He sees our frailty, beholds our weakness, and loves us.   More than we know. 




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