Friday, March 11, 2011

The tip of the Lent iceberg

I've never attended a church that has taught on or participated in Lent. I've mainly been exposed to it through friends who do. It seems to me, in my limited exposure, that it is a religious practice for many people, which is to say I'm not sure everyone who gives up something for Lent knows why they are doing so...if that makes sense. But I also know people who pursue the tradition with sincerity and hearts full of worship as well. You probably do too. Inspiring, huh?

Each year the tradition intrigues me more. This year, I feel drawn to participate in a Lenten fast. And as I've begun to be mindful of my sacrifice, which was to start Wednesday and continue for the 40 days preceding Easter (Sundays are not counted), I'm also realizing that I have only discovered the tip of an iceberg. I really have no idea what I'm doing.

I have no idea how to go about regularly denying myself something, particularly for 40 days, and extra particularly while maintaining a heart that is embracing that bit of suffering as a means to better understanding the cross. I am so incredibly comfortable, in our culture. My typical experience with self-denial is when I reluctantly stop at the fourth Girl Scout cookie, or resist spending money on something I want but don't need. Tip of the iceberg, I tell you.

I feel a strange tension. I realize I seldom say no to myself, and am an infant in its practice, but Easter still rushes towards me, the thing for which I'm supposedly preparing my heart. The millions of people fasting for Lent, tasting death of the self in a small way, are pointing to a death so huge, so critical, so humbling.

My shallow self-denial and Jesus' death on the cross feel so very far apart. Am I really to feel some sort of oneness with Jesus? Am I really going to somehow experience a teensy fraction of the sacrifice He felt? I think the answer is No and No! Again, I'm nowhere near expert status, but fasting to feel like a "fellow sufferer" doesn't seem to be the point of Lent, as I once understood it. I will never, ever suffer like the Lord did. And I don't believe I will ever understand a fraction of what His sacrifice felt like. In fact, it seems prideful to believe I could understand any of what he truly went through.

And perhaps that's precisely the point. This post by Ann Voskamp is helping me see more of the Lent iceberg, beneath the surface. Deeper lessons are to be learned from Lent, not only in our success, but also in our failure to maintain self-denial. Our complete inability in our flesh to live sacrificially is a lesson in an of itself.

I can't share with you what I'm attempting to give up; even for me, it's a little too personal. (You know I'd share if I could, friends!) But I will tell you last night, on Day 2, I had forgotten about my commitment until after I broke it.

I broke it, and then I read Ann's post. Though her words stung a little, I could relate with her. Is my focus that poor? Am I that indulgent? Do I love Him so little? If you have a few minutes, read Ann's post. It's dramatic and a bit long, but it made me think about my own heart. It made me wonder if Lent is more about facing our own rebelliousness, realizing our desperate need for a Savior, than proving we know how to suffer like one.

Just trying to work it out, friends. Thanks for listening.


  1. Good for you! Lent is wonderful...and you will learn to look forward to it after it becomes part of your routine...the first few years I participated I forgot a few times too...but that is a time to self reflect and realize how wrapped up we are in the things in our life that mindlessly take over.....we really need to have more self control and bring God into every part of our life...good for you....keep us posted girl! You can do it!

  2. i loved ann's post. and i love yours too. i completely agree that "it seems prideful to believe I could understand any of what he truly went through". i hope that the journey is fruitful for you. seems like you're already learning so much!