Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lent for Beginners

I’ve never practiced Lent before. I’ve never been part of a faith community that practices Lent. I honestly didn’t even know what it was until a couple of years ago when I heard that the folks at North Heights Lutheran in Arden Hills, Minnesota had decided to adopt our clinic project during their celebration of Lent. They gathered over $20,000 dollars that went straight to clinic construction expenses. But that got me curious about this whole Lent thing. So, I asked around and got a basic explanation which abated my curiosity for the time.

Later I would hear off and on about people celebrating Lent and it seemed a quaint tradition. Foreign to my mind yet attractive to my soul. Something, or should I say, Someone, seemed to be calling me to it, drawing me into what it has to offer my thirsty spirit.

Today, like most days, I visited my favorite blog, A Holy Experience, and was surprised to learn that today is the first day of Lent. Again, He is calling my name. This has been a year of new beginnings for me and this time I decide it’s not too late to start…to join in. To practice Lent. All by myself, yet not.

One thing I get is that it’s not about doing it right or wrong, or even necessarily succeeding or failing. It’s about what happens in my heart as a result of the process.

Ann Voskamp says it so well (you can read the whole story HERE):

It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess — before one can be possessed of God. Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary — to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
“But Lent is teaching me.”My throat stings. “I see how depraved I am. How incapable I am in the flesh, how in bondage I am. That I can’t keep any law perfectly. Worse – oh, this cuts deep — at times…”

I struggle to keep composure, to grip the words and hand them over. Can I even say these words?

“Worse… at times… I don’t even want to keep the law.
Lent’s revealing my depravity, my impotence. The utter death of my flesh. I can do nothing. My Lent convicts: I am a lawbreaker. ” Does the emptying come only when we know how empty we are?
I love Him so much… because His love is the only thing that can save me. This wrestle has made me know it full well. And this failing lent? It is a good Lent because it is preparing me for Easter Joy with the Lent Lament.
I am one of the disciples grieving – a life grieving His absence, a life grieving the black before the light, a life grieving death that will hungrily seize resurrection.
Lent gives me this gift: the deeper I know the pit of my sin, the deeper I’ll drink from the draughts of joy.

Grief is what cultivates the soil for the seeds of joy.
She who knows her sins much, loves much, and the road to heaven is paved with the realization that I deserve hell. His rising will be all my joy, because I know it my bowels: He is all my hope.

So, I’ve decided to take the plunge.  I'm going to celebrate Lent this year.  God has already been speaking to me, showing me these things that get in the way…that come between me and Him…that rob us of our time together. This Lent is a gift…a new opportunity, a fresh start…the push I needed to dive head first into what I already knew I needed to do but was drifting further away from with the passing of each day. It snaps me back to attention, back to reality, back to what God has already been doing in me...back to where he has been trying to guide me from the beginning.

Lent 2011: March 9-April 23

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