I’ve written previously on why I favor the observance of Lent for those interested.
My goals for Lent this year were certainly acheivable for an ascetic like me:
Fast 1 meal a day (or the equivalent)
Record what I eat
Have a significant Quiet Time each day
Follow along with the 40 Day Prayer Guide
Pray daily for passion for the lost
Confession. I botched every last one one of them. Big time. Of the 40 days, I probably skipped a meal only six or seven times and recorded what I ate only four times. I went for a period of two full weeks without a single Quiet Time and was sporadic much of the rest of the time. I only did 10 out of the 40 daily prayer assigments, and I didn’t pray for passion for the lost much at all. All in all, I think I succeeded only about 25%. In summary: I gave up God for Lent.
How could this happen?!!! I mean I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to be holy or something, right? Well I didn’t fail because the goals were too difficult. So then why did I? I suppose I could offer excuses: I was sick for two of the weeks and our family ended up on the Mexico trip. But the truth is that I failed them mostly because they became less important to me than me. I’m ashamed to admit all this to you readers, especially bursting your bubble about pastors being holy and all!
So was Lent without value this year? Hardly. Failing so miserably has had several good effects. That’s one thing I love about Lent–it has value whether you succeed or fail.
The primary thing I learned from all this is my inability to produce anything good on my own and how I need to utterly depend on God. Just as the Law was given to point out our inability to keep it, Lent this year had that same effect on me.
Providentially, I just picked up a book about Jonathan Edwards’ resolve where he reflects on his own broken resolutions. He confesses “If God should withdraw His Spirit a little more, I should not hesitate to break my resolutions and should soon arrive at my old state. There is no dependance on myself…What a miserable wretch without the assistance of the Spirit of God…How weak do I find myself!
O let it teach me to depend less on myself and be more humble.”
I learned from Edwards that my job is not “to do” such resolutions at all but rather to “humbly entreat God to do” such things through me. I should never again set goals without making my primary focus to beg God to accomplish them through me. To take it even further, I essentially need to retitle all my “to do” lists–for apart from Him I can do nothing.
A second thing my Lenten failure gave me was a renewed appreciation of Jesus. He made an infinitely hard commitment and He stuck to it without letting himself get in the way. Even when offered the gall to anesthetize the pain of the crucifixion He refused–choosing to experience the full wrath of both God and man. He went all the way for us. He followed through on what He said He would do. (It’s a good thing the Savior was Him instead of me or we’d all be doomed!)
The last thing Lent taught me this year was a greater understanding and experience of the grace of God. Though I was failing Him miserably all throughout Lent He continued to bless me immensely during that time. My self-centered, neglectful treatment of Him was insulting and deathworthy, and yet for some reason He responded to me with abundant blessings. And looking at it from an eternal, judicial perspective: although I have shown myself once again to be helpless in the flesh, He continues to clothe me with the very Righteousness of Christ as if I had never sinned! Amazing grace indeed!
So what next? Well, even though Lent is officially over, I’ve decided to redo my unfinished Lenten resolutions, completing them the right way–by humbly entreating God to get them done! This time I’ll be giving up me for Lent.