Choosing what I'm going to do for Lent is a lot like picking a New Years Resolution, in that I can never choose what to commit to. Oh sure, I can come up with a list of about a million things, almost instantaneously, that I could do. You want to know why it's so easy? Because it's stuff I should probably already be doing anyway.
So then, of course, I get all convicted and whatnot and head rapidly into a full blown shame-spiral because I'm a worthless human who can't do anything right. It's really not terribly productive, in the end, because I don't end up choosing anything since I'm too busy feeling worthless and continuing to do nothing. Oof. No good, I tell you, no good at all.
And yet here we are, the day before Lent, and I'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly I'd like to do for it. Give something up? Add a spiritual discipline? Stop doing something? Start doing something? BOTH!? Someone tell me what to Lent! I beg you!
On the other hand, I have learned so much through Lent in the past 4 years that this year I'm almost looking forward to it. I've been revisiting some of it and relearning those lessons, recalling, reveling in God's faithfulness to me. I know that's kind of weird to say, that I'm excited, because Lent in general isn't supposed to be particularly pleasant. But sometimes, church traditions aren't just stuffy and boring, they have purpose. Really beautiful purpose. I've said it before and I'll say it again: observing Lent through to Easter changes everything. At least, it did for me. It makes everything about Easter more wonderful and it makes the wilderness meaningful in ways it wasn't before. It's ridiculously poetic. I love that.
The first time Lent was explained to me in a way that resonated more than just deciding to give up Diet Coke for 40 days, it was huge. It was a time when I knew wilderness and I needed it to mean something. And then there it was. It did mean something. It does. I don't know, I think at the surface it seems strange to observe such a dark time. I think it seems weird that corporately, as a church, we focus on darkness and mess for so long. But on some strange, weird level, I find great comfort in it. I find great comfort in the thought of light at the end of darkness. I find great comfort in knowing that even though we observe the trials of the 40 days, the grief of Good Friday, the sad emptiness of Holy Saturday, that at the end of that? There is Sunday. There is hope. And hope does not disappoint us.
I'm trying, this year, to decide what exactly it is that I need to add or subtract from my life so that I can lean more fully into God, so that I will be ready, when the time comes, to celebrate the gift and glory of Jesus. I probably should have been discerning this sooner, but alas, I am a procrastinator. And my list of things I should be doing already is long and daunting. I'm setting the goal that by Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7, I will be ready to commit to whatever it is. In the meantime I just won't do anything I shouldn't be doing so that I don't accidentally break whatever Lenten commitment I decide to make. It may be a long day, is what I'm telling you, so I guess you've been warned?
Mostly I'm excited. Excited because I can't wait to see what God has to teach me through the next 40 or so days. Excited because honestly, I'm ready to be stripped of stuff I don't need. Excited because even though brokenness is a thing, even though pain is undeniable and sadness and grief are inevitable, there's hope at the end. There's rescue, and a way out of the wilderness. There's a Savior.