Lent: Learning from my Father

by Edie Wadsworth on February 10, 2013

Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days with it’s culmination in Easter.   This is a repost from last February {and the February before that!) and will explain Lent in further detail for the newcomer to the season.  My thanks to Pastor Will Weedon for allowing me to republish part of his post.

emme&daddy

“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.

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.

Lenten discipline  is not commanded or mentioned in the scriptures but we are admonished to fast and pray and forsake the flesh.  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  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 do 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.

You might find these  podcast links helpful.  The Gospel-Driven Church, Dr. Micheal Horton , Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent, The Sermon on the Mount with Carl Fickensher,  The Parable of the Lost Son with Bill Cwirla all brought to you via my favorite radio program Issues,Etc.

 This podcast on Lent with Pastors Todd Wilken and Heath Curtis is one of the best I’ve heard.

Blessed Lent to you, dear friends!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ruth February 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm

A wonderful reminder to focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid the ultimate price and not us. Nothing we do will make us holier. The work is complete and we are redeemed.
Blessed Lent.
Hugs :))

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2 Trudy K. February 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Thanks for re-posting this Edie. Great way to go into Lent.
Sincerely

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3 Kelly February 11, 2013 at 7:18 am

Very helpful! Thanks so much for sharing!

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4 kari February 11, 2013 at 7:49 am

Edie,
Thank you very much. I love the quotes and even more I love how you took the time to explain what Lent truly is. You are such a gift to my heart! I am grateful for you and for the sweet gifts our Father gave you!!
Love,
Kari

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5 Julie Ann Blevins February 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hi Edie. We need that “like” or “love” button. :)

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6 Tracey H. February 11, 2013 at 11:01 am

Thank you for this post, what a great read leading into Lent.. Much love for your honesty:0)

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7 Candace February 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thank you, Edie, as always…just linked to your beautiful words here. I am having trouble finding those podcasts on my phone…is there anyway to get a link that doesn’t go straight to “play.” I don’t even know if I’m making sense…I’m a bit new to the whole podcast on my iPhone since I’ve only had it since december. :) I’m searching on my podcast app and have the Issues, Etc there with 500 sessions but can’t find these particular ones! ugh! Tank you for the ideas, though, I am thankful for the chance to hear some of these talks on Lent.

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8 edie February 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

thank you, friend!!
these are all old episodes of issues so it would be hard to find them through their app. if i don’t link straight to the audio, then it pulls up a page of maybe 20 podcasts and is harder to tell which ones i’m referring to. i know what you mean but i don’t know how i could do another way without making it harder for people to tell what episodes i’m really linking to.
sending love and prayers to you during this season!

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9 Cheryl February 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I am also looking forward to Lent. I don’t love it, but I love the promise of renewal that it holds. And, like you, I came from a Christian tradition that didn’t really “do” Lent, which I think makes me savor it all the more now that I’m Lutheran. I am lining up my Lenten disciplines now, ready for a little quiet and reflection.

Thank you for a lovely post.

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10 Kristi February 12, 2013 at 12:08 am

Thank you for posting this again, I enjoy it every year. I can’t believe Lent is here already! :)
xoxo
Kristi

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11 Kyle February 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

Thank you for posting this. I, for one, forget time-to-time what it is to be a Christain. And because of that; I forget what HE has lost and we have truly gained. Happy Lent everyone and GOD bless.

Kyle

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12 Deb February 13, 2013 at 7:25 am

I just recently found your blog. I never really understood the purpose of Lent. Thank you for sharing this. I am a Chrstian but I have always been in a church that does not observe Lent. My daughter who is going to college away from home, recently mentioned she is starting Lent today but she is not at all looking at it this way, I know because I talked to her about why she is doing it, and her reasons were more general, no reflection on her relationship with Christ. I think I will direct her to this hopefully she will understand the main purpose of observing Lent. I am praying she desires a relationship with our Lord.

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13 Ashley Urke | Domestic Fashionista February 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

Thank you for sharing this again this year. I have been struggling the past few days on how I wanted to observe Lent this year so your words and the podcasts I will be spending some time with today seeking the Lord and how he wants to challenge me over these next 40 days. xo

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