The Season of Lent and learning from my Father………

by Edie Wadsworth on February 24, 2009


Lent begins with this realization. That we are a people in exile. That we are wandering far from our true home. And thus the beginning of repentance isn’t merely the terror that one finds in wandering in a strange land; the beginning of repentance is homesickness…..Lent teaches us to fess up to how often we settle down in the land of our exile as though it were our true home; attempting to still the yearning the Spirit has created by throwing at it physical or psychological pleasure, and how it never works.” courtesy of Pastor Will Weedon

Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that is characterized by prayer, reflection, repentance and often fasting, then culminating in the celebration of the resurrection and the feasting of Easter. It roughly mimics the 40 days Christ retreated to the wilderness and wrestled with the devil. Many evangelicals reject ‘lenten’ observance because it’s just too Roman catholic and because there is no mandate for it in scripture. As a former evangelical, I can say that I’ve spent 30 years enjoying the ‘feasting’ of Easter without the penitential and preparatory time of Lent….and I wish I could go back and change that. I find that one of many benefits of following the traditional church calendar and being in a liturgical church is that nothing gets overlooked. It’s a methodical way of proceeding through the scriptures and it prevents such things as quickly glossing over the celebration of Christ’s resurrection without spending time in quiet reflection of His death on the cross, the mental anguish and suffering which took place while he was in the wilderness, and the details of the events of His life during Holy Week. It’s like walking in ‘real time’ with Him during the last weeks of His life. Is Lent discussed or commanded , per se, in the scriptures? No, but penitence and fasting and prayer are…..and what better time to observe a more rigorous christian discipline than as we reflect upon the last days and weeks of the life of Christ.

And we all practice degrees of discipline already. Lent is the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise for the body. The body gets stronger when we demand much from it….not when we always ‘give in’ to what it wants. The same is true in disciplining our children. Because we love them so much, we demand what is best for them….which is often not what they, in their immaturity, want for themselves. In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he puts it this way:

“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging circumstances. God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense………The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or blemish is endurable.”

Though the analogy breaks down when taken to extremes, God compares our relationship to Him to that between a parent/child. And Lewis, in his book, compares our being brought into God’s family to a very ‘badly brought up boy’ being introduced into a decent family. When they see traits in this child that are detestable, Lewis says ‘they not only hate it, but they ought to hate it. They cannot love him for what he is, they can only try to turn him into what he is not’.
…we are at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, and as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves.”

God our Father, despite our unloveliness, has given us everything we need and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ, but we, like Adam, want to ‘clothe’ ourselves. Lent is a time to strip down; to take off the filthy clothes of our own righteousness and to let our Father give us from His hand what He knows we need.

It’s like the picture of Stevie teaching Emme to fish. We learn from our Father by spending time with Him. There is much He wants to teach us and much that needs to be changed in us. But more than all that, He wants to give us Himself….knowing that we were created for relationship with Him. And that nothing will satisfy the deepest longings of our soul save Our Father’s perfect love. Lent is time to retreat with Our Father. To confess to Him that we have wandered so far from home and that we have become far too ‘comfortable’ in the pleasures of this life. To confess to Him how utterly dependent we have become on everything, but Him. And He will gladly ‘receive’ us back with open arms……not because we demonstrate to Him our growing discipline and holiness……..but for the sake of Christ……. and Him alone.

A few stray thoughts:

1. Lent is a time for penitence and reflection and the practicing of christian discipline. It does not make God ‘more pleased with me’ and is not a ‘good work’. God is pleased with Christ alone and good works are those things which I give in service to my neighbor.
2. If I purpose to ‘give something up’ for Lent and then two weeks later find that I fail and can’t keep my lenten discipline, God is not disappointed in me. God is pleased with Christ and thus pleased with me when I have faith in Christ. I am a sinner who fails and sins constantly. And my failing is not a surprise to God.
3. If I keep my lenten discipline to the ‘tee’, I must be careful not to try and convince myself that I’m ‘more spiritual’ or holy than before. I have been freely clothed with the righteousness of Christ and am only learning to ‘fit’ into clothes that were given me by God.
4. We must also be careful not to view our discipline as ‘suffering’ and remember that Christ suffered on the cross for our redemption and we do not get to choose our own suffering (by giving up, say diet pepsi for a month).
5. It is a good exercise to occasionally deprive our bodies….to not give in to every fleshly desire. We are so often slaves to our own bodies and teaching ourselves discipline in any area is often met with resistance.

I leave you with another quote from Pastor Will Weedon who kept me from seeing Lent as a season where ‘I work hard to become more holy’;

The holiness into which you seek to grow has already been given to you, whole and entire! It’s yours in Jesus Christ, the gift of His righteousness fully bequeathed you in Baptism, and constantly renewed in you by absolution and the Holy Eucharist. Through these wonderful gifts, we get to GROW in the apprehension of that which is already our own, learning to live more and more from it, more and more from union with Christ and less and less from the old self. So it is not that holiness grows in you; it is that you grow in holiness! Getting used to whom God has made you to be in His Son.
There’s real effort here, of course, but the effort is working at resting in Him who works all things through us. I don’t overcome sin by my willpower (ha!), but by the strength of Him who has united Himself to me.

Among other lofty and likely unattainable goals, I have decided to close comments on most posts during Lent. I got the idea from Jen at Conversion Diary and am already regretting the decision, even as I type it. I love your comments and feedback. You have been such a source of inspiration and blessing to me. Closing comments seems a little scary. How will I know you’re still there? How will I know if you loved the cookie recipe? Well, because I’ve learned that Lent is not an invitation to legalism, I thought I’d give myself permission to open comments when they would likely be helpful to others (and not just a much needed pat on the back for me). So posts such as this one…..where the discussion is often more informative than the post, I’ll leave them open. And when I show you my latest find at the thrift store…..or you need to know what paint color I used, well I guess you’ll have to email or facebook or twitter me. (Right, Jess?) Now, comment while you can! That’s assuming I can figure out how to close and open them!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Do it yourselfer February 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

You profoundly and beautifully explained this to me…giving me cause to explore a bit more. Thank you. I can’t remember the last time I denied myself anything.

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2 Mandi February 24, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Edie,
You really put this into terms I can understand. Thank you so much for both reminding me of things I knew, and teaching me things I didn’t. This blog is definitely one of the ways God has called you to serve your neighbors. Thanks again.

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3 Amber B. February 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I love that first quote. I’m writing it down and taping it to our fridge today! THANKS!!!!

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4 Sandy Toes February 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

What a wonderful post….you describe it and explain it beautifully!

Closing comments??oh my! I have a blog that I visit daily that takes no comments EVER…it KILLS me!

I will be here…quietly!
-sandy toe

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5 menley February 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I’m not sure that I agree with your point in stray thought No. 1 that “God is pleased with Christ alone,” but I generally agreed with this post. Thank you. Have a blessed Lenten season. : )

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6 Amber February 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I love this, Edie. The quotes are perfectly pulled together here, and I love how the focus is on God’s love for us and His finished work. I’m looking forward to tapping into Him and strengthening my spiritual muscles this Lent.

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7 Jessica February 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I’ll be like Buster on Arrested Development (just quietly peeping around). Great post.

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8 Musings of a Homeschooling Mom February 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Great post, Edie! Thank you for explaining Lent in terms that I can understand! I gave up coke for a 21 day corporate fast with our church and many other churches and seriously felt like a failure when I gave in a couple of times. I did succeed for awhile, but gave in a couple of times. It is good to know that He wasn’t disappointed in me!

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9 Fran February 24, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Absolutely awesome!!! Came over from twitter at Shannon’s request!
LOVE LOVE THIS. thank you. I’m going to link to you if that is ok. I’m wanting to share your post with families at church that I’m able to serve each week.

Blessings over you,
Fran
Jackson TN

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10 Alison February 24, 2009 at 7:38 pm

such a helpful post about how to journey into the wilderness with Christ. I am giving up some sleep and being an early birth this Lenten season.

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11 Holly February 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Thank you.

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12 Trinity Mommy February 24, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Beautiful post!

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13 Jen K. February 24, 2009 at 9:00 pm

What a great post-thanks for posting a link to it on Twitter. As a Catholic, I have been through 31 Lenten periods in my life thusfar, and have often wondered why other Christians do not participate in it. Thank you for your insight and your open-mindedness towards it. It is important to reflect on Christ’s life through the Lenten season and what he gave up for us. It is a time for service, for sacrifice and a time for reflection. (Not just for giving up meat, etc!) Well said!

Jen

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14 William Weedon February 25, 2009 at 3:37 am

Let me add my kudos to your thoughtful post on Lent, Edie. May your Lent (and the Lent of all your blog readers) be a joyous and blessed one in the Lord! Pax Christi!

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15 Megan @ Hold it Up to the Light February 25, 2009 at 3:39 am

That was such a wonderful post to read as I start my reflections on Lent….I have been preparing my spirit all day. I always enjoy this time in my faith walk, for all the reasons you wrote about. Thank you for the reminder, and may your Lenten Season be a wonderful season of growth and renewal.

I’m happy I found your blog today!

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16 Megan@SortaCrunchy February 25, 2009 at 7:29 am

Hello!

I’m here via shannon @ rocks in my dryer. This is such an extremely timely post for me. I’m a Southern Baptist who is embracing the season of Lent in a real way for the first time this year. Your thoughts stir so much in me. Thank you for sharing this.

And I’m also closing comments through Lent for the first time EVER. (Inspired by Jenn, too.)

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17 edie February 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Fran,
Of course I’d love that.

Thanks ladies for the wonderful commentary.

If you’ve never attended an Ash Wed service, find a lutheran church and try it tonite. You will be blessed!

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18 Traci February 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I’m proud of you for closing comments. And I’m thrilled that you are led by God to do it!

It’s amazing how little things like anticipating feedback from readers can have tugging control over how we spend our time isn’t it?

I grabbed part of one of your past posts (the “If he was a ___” prompts from your husband’s birthday post) I hope you don’t mind. I added some to it. I just thought it was a great idea, and of course I’ll link back to it.

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19 gina February 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Love your thoughts and your post without comments above is even grander… I wonder if maybe you aren’t self editing now? On second thought, no I don’t think you self-edit anyways. :)

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20 carissa... brown eyed fox February 27, 2009 at 7:35 pm

your "stray" thoughts… i will hold them in my hands & treasure them! i kept shaking my head "yes… yes… oh yes"… loved what you said… HOW you said it!

great post Edie… you SO clearly wrote that on the board for us!
thank you!

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21 Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam February 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Ok – this is not about this post, although I am becoming more and more convicted at closing my comments to avoid distraction. I crave comments, but with home schooling, it’s such a time distraction. Anyhow, I LOVE YOU even more after your hilarious home school post. Where are you submitting your article, I want to go see it.
Also, did you know I direct a Classical Conversations group? (Probably not, because I realize I rarely post about home schooling – I need to change that since it is my all consuming life.) Yes, Leigg Bortins and I go way back since she started CC in my area. I am also the NC tutor trainer, so girl friend, if you have any questions about it. I am your girl. This is our 7th year. I hear they call me a vetern. :) HA…with being a vetern comes much laziness and that’s not good when I still have a Kind. Anyhow, I saw that on your tumblr, so yes, we are looking. :)

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22 mer@lifeat7000feet October 10, 2009 at 4:19 am

I just found your blog tonight (from the eye makeup tutorial that Chickadee linked to!).

Loved reading this.

My husband was a southern Baptist pastor for years and years and years. Then we moved to a non-denom church. Then we dipped our feet into the liturgical waters and we're hooked. We're members of a Lutheran church too. (ELCA–though our local body is way more conservative than most).

Christmas and Easter have both become so much more meaningful to me because of the heart preparation that takes place during Advent/Lent. That piece was missing for me for most of my years in non-liturgical churches.

Anyway, nice to "meet" you! I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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23 Trudy Royston November 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I am deeply touched by this Edie and am bookmarking it for future reference.
I just started to write a book here and decided to cut and paste it to my very blank journal. Am I getting “my voice”?
Keep on keeping on Edie. God has brought you here for good reason indeed!
Sincerely, Trudy

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