(To start off, here are two Lenten reflections that I wrote for the Hunger Action team on campus last year.)
Today I failed my Lenten discipline for the first time – this year, at least. I realize it isn’t something disastrous, that I failed myself because it is a discipline that I took on myself, and that being “successful” won’t win me extra credit with God. It is also true, but a poor excuse, to mention that discipline is not my strong suit.
To fail in a simple thing, however, is privately a bit humiliating. If I were wiser, it would be humbling, but I don’t feel humbled in a positive sense. I’m also not giving up – but still, I failed.
This leads me to reflect on the nature of the Christian life, because I am privileged to be in Seminary, and able to spend time thinking about these things. I wonder, if I fail in such a simple thing, how much more am I unprepared to follow Christ? Even being a relatively religious person, even feeling called as I do, even being here, in a warm and supportive (and contrived) environment that I will likely never see again in my life of ministry, I fail in the small things just as I do in the greater things.
The response to this is, of course, something including the word “grace” and how God offers grace to even spiritually-lackluster people like myself. On a deep level, on my best days, I understand this. At the very least, I know that I won’t be struck by lightening, or stricken with boils, or swarmed by locusts for my failures. The trouble comes from my side, and I see that.
I think of Lent – preparation for death, in a way. Of course, we’ve read ahead in the story and know that the death isn’t final, but it is still very real, even for Jesus, even for the Christ. I think of Lent as a time to empty myself – to be ready to die, and even more frighteningly, to be transformed. I must be empty, humble, silent, still. I must look for the peace that I hope lies beyond my egotistical nature, my selfishness, my self-obsession that comes so naturally to me.
And I can’t even hold to one simple discipline, one small thing. There is such an incredible distance between who I am now and who I want to be in the light (and the darkness) of the cross. Such a distance. Perhaps some of you feel the same distance.
Prayer: God we are full, our cups runneth over. We echo with noise that drowns out your voice; we are crowded with idols that take your place; we are ceaselessly gratified by meaningless pleasures; we are held aloof by a false sense of supremacy. Empty us. Humble us. Silence us. Still us. – That we may know you are God. That we may know who we truly are. Amen.