This is day 2 of my Lenten devotional on the prodigal son. I hope you find some hope and encouragement here.  Click Here to Download the 40 day devotional study!



Texts: Psalm 8: 1-6, Gen. 1:20-2:3, Mark 1:14-28

Eight years ago, I observed the season of Lent for the first time. We had just joined a historic, liturgical church and I was completely fascinated by the rich history & ritual of it all, things I had seriously doubted and even mocked when I was 25 and knew everything there was to know about serious Christianity. (insert a little compassionate hug for my 25 year old self)I wanted to do Lent right. I wanted to be the best at Lent. I wanted to repent and remember and deny myself like nobody’s business.  I wanted to show those Lutherans what Lent could really look like if an over-achieving (perhaps slightly self-righteous) evangelical got a hold of it. I went into Lent with all the serious spiritual contemplation I could muster, complete with a journal to jot down all my spiritual growth. And oh the spiritual growth I was anticipating.  If there had been a #christiangirlinstagram hashtag back in the day, I would have worn it out. (Do yourself a favor and follow @johnbcrist on Instagram.)  (#christiangirlinstagram is a parody on how we as christian girls like to document our devotion to the Lord in ever more creative ways. It’s painfully hilarious.)


If Lent were the equivalent of me taking a walk, I looked down at my feet the whole time, admiring my awesome cowboy boots, or my spiritual progress, as it were.  So I say this very much from experience that the greatest temptation during Lent is not that you won’t be able to keep your Lenten discipline.  The greatest temptation is that you will constantly take your spiritual temperature, wondering if you are in fact becoming better and better.  I’ll give you the cliff notes of my first self-righteous Lent.  The way you’ll know you’re making progress is that you won’t see any progress at all. What you’ll see is more sin, more selfishness, less discipline, more temptation, less patience, less love. Why? Because the more you hear the Word & meditate on it, the more sin it will expose in you, like turning spotlights on the dirty corners of your house. 

If your Lenten journey is really successful, you’ll get to the end of it and wonder how you can still be so far off.  And that’s exactly the point. Lent reminds us how lost we are, how self-absorbed we are, how far we are from ever being what we were created to be.

When we finally despair with our pathetic attempts to be more spiritual, when we finally put to death all our preconceived ideas about being holy and righteous, when we empty ourselves of ourselves, He will fill us with all good things.  And those good things will turn us outside ourselves toward our neighbor. We will finally look up and realize that we’re not walking just to walk. We’re walking with our neighbors, who despite our weak and faltering faith, need us.  And they don’t need us to be super spiritual overachievers whose Lenten journals are full of deep insights. They just need a cup of water or a maybe some soup, perhaps even someone to finally make them laugh.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus calls his first disciples and the text says they “immediately” went to Capernaum where Jesus healed a man possessed with an unclean spirit.  They didn’t have a goal setting meeting on how to best plot their spiritual growth.  They looked around and saw that the world is hurting and dying so they got right to work.

Let’s not succomb to the very real temptation to watch our own feet as we walk this road together. Look up. Look around & outward.  And when we stop worrying about ourselves and our own progress and begin offering our gifts of love and healing to our neighbors, we will see the beauty of His life in us—a life meant to be poured out for others.


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8 comments on “Me & My Self-Righteous Lent”

  1. Again, just what I needed! I also did not grow up observing Lent, and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how awesome it is. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared an excerpt on my blog today and asked my readers to join me in the study. Thank you for sharing your heart 🙂

  2. Ha ha! That’s pretty funny. I remember thinking “Wow, I’m glad I saw this today!” I made sure to sign up pronto. =)

  3. I can not seem to find an email address on your website so am leaving a comment. I am wondering if you still would like some dishcloths like you took to Nicaragua? i would also like to know where you found the small dolls you used with them. I charity knit and need a break from hats.

  4. Being Catholic, I thought the “you have to join by such-and-such a date” idea was hilarious. Every year around the 4th or 5th Sunday of Lent, at every parish I’ve ever attended, the priest’s homily is always something like “So, you might be feeling like your Lent has been a failure, but it’s important to remember that it’s never too late; sometimes feeling like you’ve made no progress was your progress in Lent.” (Or is that what they say in Confession around that time; not sure – but I know it’s what I always hear, one way or another…)

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