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.