An Invitation for Lent 2018
Christians model our Lent on Jesus’ wilderness experience just after he is baptized by John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit invites him into the wilderness, drives him actually, and there he is tempted by Satan. The temptations Jesus encounters can’t really be compared to ours for the most part, as he is given the opportunity to have extraordinary powers to feed the world and to rule the nation. Jesus’s response to the temptations is the humble acclamation that he is to live humbly with God’s grace rather than worldly powers. It’s a defining time for Jesus: will he devote himself to conquering his world or will he live faithfully serving God?
That’s our dilemma too in many ways. We are tempted to attack each day with a conquering mindset. The events in our days can be seen as obstacles to work around, contests to win, enemies to defeat. With that sort of mindset, quickly our focus becomes our own strengths or weaknesses and the threatening nature of the events we face. We get lonely and tired, bruised and beaten, with such an approach to life. While we might be teased with some successes, it’s discouraging to find that the very smallest struggle in a day can completely undo us. Our victories are short-lived and really are further reminders that, when we approach things with only our own skills, it’s just a matter of time before we collapse. So our struggles with the events we face inevitably return us to the truth that we are limited, that we need help, that we cannot live by ourselves alone and must find a way to live more faithfully with God.
40 days is a long time. It’s long enough for us to see that the things we want to rid ourselves of have a hold on us. It’s also long enough for us to establish some new patterns of faithfulness. Faithfulness isn’t so much succeeding with a new spiritual discipline as it is consistently returning to a prescribed path. Some time-proven spiritual disciplines would include scripture reading, sitting in silence, journaling, fasting, and more regular attendance at worship. Typically when we see we can’t do something perfectly we just quit but there is another way.
Faithfulness is seeing we can’t do things perfectly and then humbly returning to that which we have committed ourselves to. Lent is not about me proving my worth. It’s about me practicing faithfulness. May your Lenten struggle bring your closer to faithfulness as you return to the Lord.
– Robert Wisnewski