Lent has started and Easter is coming.
On February 10th 2016, Ash Wednesday, Lent started. By many in and out of the church, the beginning of this amazing period went unnoticed. And so the days keep ticking. And I believe the church is missing an incredible opportunity to grow in faith and encounter the Person of Jesus in the midst of their weakness.
What is Lent?
There are so may thoughts and answers, but typically it is a time frame of 46 days. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It begins with Ash Wednesday reminding us of our own mortality and need for repentance and ends with the resurrection of our King of Kings. The in-between period is for fasting, simplifying, repenting, praying, and in general preparing for the amazing day of celebrating the risen King on Easter.
The already, but not yet.
As Lent has started, and I have reflected, Lent has taken on a new meaning. Two things have struck me this year. First, the picture of standing in the already, but not yet we Christians continually live in the tension of. A fascinating thing about Lent, is that each Sunday is considered a mini-Easter. A day of celebration in the midst of repentance, fasting, and mourning. Isn’t that life.
We live in the midst of victories while still being affected by the sin of ours and others in this world that has not yet become the new heaven and new earth.
We live in the already, but not yet. This time frame started the first Easter Sunday and will continue until He returns. And so, I live in this constant struggle of faith and disappointment. Being ones called to live like faith, often times feels like Peter walking on water and being overwhelmed by the wind and the waves. The struggle was real then and the struggle continues and will do so until the day my tears are wiped away by the Gentle One. Babies are born and loved ones die. Freedom from addiction is found, and relapses occur. Unexplainable healing and cancer diagnoses. Extremes acts of mercy and selfishness. In the same day, hour, minute, breath. Our world is so fickle. Our circumstances so shifting. Me included.
One day, the already will not be followed by the not yet.
This Lent, instead of floundering in the tension and getting sucked under by the disappointment, I am letting it root me deeper into Him who is not a shifting shadow. He who does not change. He who I can find rest and refuge and gifts of faith and expectation. Waiting for with a raised face and lifted hands for the already but not yet that is in front of me. On the days when the not yet, the fasting, the repentance, the reminder of my mortality is what is in front of me, I will look ahead to Easter Sunday. In so many words, in so many places, “it is only Friday, but Sunday is coming.” (S. M. Lockridge) Because, dear ones, we know the end of the story. It isn’t a secret. He wins. Death is defeated. One day, the already will not be followed by the not yet. Church, let us be the ones who rise up in faith and believe this Lent. In the midst of the tension, the discouragement, the despair, let us in hope and expectation celebrate the mini-Easters all around us. Because, truth be told, He is already making all things new. He is always turning ashes into beauty.
Secondly, Lent is a continual reminder that it is not about me. This whole thing, this whole life, it is for Him. For His glory. Lent in its practice is about fasting and simplifying and praying, which helps us humans to remember that we are here and dependent on the all powerful Father. And so, this Lenten season, I would challenge you to fast. Fast from food, from coffee, media, Instagram, candy, or fast from lying, anger, bitterness, resentment, control, jealousy, discontentment. Fast from something that will drive you to your knees and into His Presence. And as you do so, you see that Lent is not only a helpful, but a powerful tool. It exposes our weakness to let His strength be exposed. The fasting and praying is to help discipline us into remembering He. Is. Here. And when He is here, nothing ever stays the same. We easily decrease so He might increase, we die so He might live, we choose the narrow, knowing that it leads to full, abundant life. With Jesus, we die, not to die, but we die to live. It is a privilege. It is the best life.
When we choose to die so that He may live, we watch the impossible happen.
Instead of being annoyed by disturbance in our daily routine, we see them as a door for Him to work through. The Ethiopian eunuch becomes saved (Acts 8:26-40). Instead of getting stuck in our hardships and defeats, we give them to Him. Our shipwrecks become peoples places of deliverance and salvation (Acts 28). The mundane and ordinary small things He has called us to, do not bore and weary us, but become chances to let Him use our broken vessels. Then our homes will become places where the sick are healed and blind see (Matt 8:14-16). God knows us. He sees us. And still He invites us. When we through fasting, praying, simplifying, or whatever other means, think of ourselves less and Him more, we are apt to hear the invitation. And then to say yes to it. It truly is a glorious adventure. Waiting in the field with the buried treasure. Will you find it? Will you sell all to get it? Nobody can keep your from it. Truly. It is yours for the taking.
This Lent, in the midst of the fasting and the praying and the believing and the celebrating. I will remember the mini- Easters, and raise my feeble hands once more. Asking for a fresh breath of faith. And I will again, say, Jesus come. And I will ask, where is my story not Your story. Where have I drawn a boundary and said, this is mine and the rest is Yours. Where is my life being played out and I am asking You to sit on the bench. And then give that part to Him. Watch the miraculous happen. Watch that death, turn to life. Watch the hopeless days become filled with faith. And then with empty hands, but a full heart, celebrate freely, wildly, undignified, the King of Kings this coming Easter.
Written by Carrie Bach