The 2018 Lenten season begins tomorrow. While stricter Lenten observers might not be so keen that the two days collide, I find irony in the season beginning on the day in which we celebrate love. The day that many will focus on romantic love. However, I can think of no better love to focus on than the eternal love that was given to us on the living cross.
As it has been every year, my approach to Lent is organic. There are no Lenten police officers out there making sure we are not logged into Facebook or hiding in the closet with a chocolate bar or ticking the right number of boxes and doing the right things. No, that would be legalism and not at all what Jesus is about. There must always be a measure of grace. At least for me.
I’m not giving up chocolate or coffee or wine or social media or Netflix. Giving up those things would impact me but I can’t see where they would help me focus on God any more than I already have the capacity to do. Plus, when there’s something I can’t have or do, somehow that becomes all I want in an obsessive kind of way.
So many people, from my frame of reference, have practiced self-denial for Lent and I haven’t actually seen it make a difference in their lives. I can think of a few and they inspire me, but I’ve seen so many approach Lent as something they’ve traditionally done and therefore callously must do again this year.
There has to be more to these potentially meaningful liturgical practices than rules and penance. So much of my history with Lent wreaks of self-focused legalism, which is the only kind of legalism. The intended spiritual benefits of Lent are lost when the focus is taken off of Christ. (click to tweet)
For me, the observance of Lent must include some element of flexibility. I don’t know any other way to reconcile what I know about Jesus and a liturgical exercise without grace. So, whether I’m right or wrong, I’m not planning to give up anything except for a bit of my time each day to read and reflect. And I will wait. I will wait for love.
I will wait for Jesus.
I will wait for his perfect example of love which He showed on the cross. I will mourn his death as he lay in the borrowed tomb. And I will anticipate the miracle of his resurrection.
I will wait.
I will walk through my wilderness. I will dig deep to find glory in winter’s soil. I will anticipate the joy that will come with the blooms of spring. I will embrace the symbolism of what we’re waiting for, what I can’t have, Jesus, so that when this season is over, He will be all I want. I know that I will most certainly want Him more than a Snicker’s bar.
And I will read, The Living Cross, by my friend, Amy Boucher Pye. “The stories and illustrations bring home the message of hope and of a forgiving God who so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.” ~Foreword, The Living Cross by Amy Boucher Pye
She had me at “stories” and “hope”.
I think I will love the format of this Lenten resource as it is just a bit of a reading each day and a prayer. Amy does include “spiritual exercises and questions for individual reflection and group discussion” at the end of each week. But still, it doesn’t seem “checklisty”. Just like I like it!
How do you plan to wait for Jesus during this Lenton season?
However you wait, may your waiting lead you straight into the arms of Love. (Spoilers: We really don’t have to wait!)
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Andrea, I’m so grateful to read that you’ll be reading The Living Cross! May you encounter God and his transforming love at the cross. I love your words of grace about how to observe Lent. I’m so tired and depleted after a too-busy season that I’m not taking away this Lent, but am going to add the discipline of rest.
Good for you! #GraceinLent #BecauseJesus ❤ Take care of yourself, Amy!