Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s Lent already, and I don’t have a plan.
Some of you are appalled reading that. Some of you have known for awhile what you were going to do (or not do) during Lent. God spoke to you – you heard His voice – and now you’ve already begun your fast (or your new habit). If that’s you and you’re a blogger, you’ve probably had blog posts and devotionals prepared for weeks, ready to launch into a powerful journey toward the cross over the next forty or so days.
Some of you, though, upon reading that I don’t have a “plan” for Lent, are wondering what that even means. You may be new to church culture or possibly were raised in a less-traditional, non-liturgical church environment, and though you may hesitate to admit it, you don’t really know what all of this is about to begin with. Maybe you’ve never even heard of Ash Wednesday and you think Lent is something you brush off your black pants. You’re just exploring this whole “faith” thing, and are here just to see what it’s about.
(As a side note, if that’s you, I’m really, really glad you’ve found my blog, and I really, really hope that you find grace and peace here. This is a safe place, and if you have questions, I welcome them. Really and truly.)
In a nutshell, Lent is the season in the church leading up to Easter. It is traditionally a season of reflection, introspection, and repentance as believers realize again their brokenness and focus again on their need for and the meaning of the cross. Many times this reflection is done through fasting from something that gets in the way of their relationship with Christ or through the adoption of a focused habit that helps them better know Him.
A few years ago, I wasn’t too sure what Lent was all about, but by last year I was one who had a plan. I knew what I was being led to do, and though I was hesitant, I was strangely excited to see what the season would bring.
I was not disappointed. Through my fasting and the reflection that went with it, I gained an understanding of who I am and, more importantly, of who Jesus is and who He says I am. It was powerful, to say the least. I was really changed. (You can read about my Lenten Journey of 2014 by clicking —-> here.)
And remembering the experience of last year, I though I would repeat the same practice this year. Some of my old struggles have resurfaced, so I kind of figured maybe I could travel the same roads again and relearn some of the same lessons. A refresher course, so to speak. It couldn’t hurt, I reasoned. It was good before, so it should be good this time.
But what I have realized is that I was falling into what I have done so many times before: doing something for Lent because I felt I was “supposed to,” but not because I felt genuinely Spirit-led to do so.
So while last year, by this time, I had purged my closet and created blog graphics and drafted some blog posts about my anticipated Lenten journey, this year I have done none of that. I may still repeat, at some point, my fast from last spring, but I feel like God is leading me in another direction. I don’t feel led to do anything or to quit doing anything. Rather, I feel simply led to take my eyes off myself and what I need to do….and focus instead on Christ and what He has already done. I’m still praying about what that is going to look like, but in all honestly, I think that is part of this process.
Lent ought to be a time of rediscovering the truth of the cross, in whatever form it manifests itself today. And while we may need to revisit old lessons from time to time, I don’t believe that God does the same work twice. I don’t believe that He has the same thing for me today that He had for me a year ago. I don’t believe that He will do the same transformative process in me again. He could, yes, but I believe that I serve a God who is always at work doing something new.
For a little while this morning, I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn’t taking this season seriously enough. Like I wasn’t doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a Christian. But then I realized that no, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to…and that’s okay. Because doing what you’re supposed to do isn’t always a good thing if it gets in the way of something better, and I do think that for me, this approach, this year, is better. I am daring to believe that God has something new to show me. I am daring to believe that He has somewhere new to take me. In so doing, I am daring to believe that He still has plans for me and that He is far from finished working with me.
So today, as the daffodils in my back yard begin pressing upward through the remnants of fall and winter, I dare to believe that there is something God wants to spring forth in me. He’s done it before. I believe He wants to do it again. I just don’t want to get in the way.