Halfway through Lent!

We just passed the halfway point in Lent (March 15)!

And if you are like me, you have failed at your lenten practices many times over.

"God is light and in God there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5)/ "God is love" (1 John 4:8) 
It is at this point that I have to remind myself of a few things: (1) I do not practice and observe Lent to make God love me more and (2) I am a broken person who can't even live up to my own standards and practices let alone that of a infinitely holy God.

God is light. To walk in light is to have all brokenness and rebelliousness exposed. The darkness of my soul cannot exist in the light. Dark cannot exist in light. I have two choices, to find a way to get rid of the darkness or hide from the light.

Everyone has darkness and brokenness. Sometimes I want to downplay it. Sometimes I want to ignore it. Yet Lent is the perfect time, not only to work at exposing light into the dark corners, but coming to grips with our own brokenness. I had set goals for myself. I had given myself directives. Things that I wanted to do. Not scripture commands. Not something from outside demanded of me, but from myself. These are things I wanted to do and yet I haven't followed through.

This is just a symptom of something larger. We are all struggling with ourselves and I am the chiefest among those who struggle. I desire one thing but can't do it. I desire to eat only chocolate that is from a non-slave source and I can't. I desire to not eat out and I do. I desire to put away soda and I drink like a fiend. And these are just the standards I have set for myself, not counting God's standards I have not loved my neighbor as myself, I have not loved God with all my heart, I have gossiped, I have lied, I have not obeyed the laws of the land, etc... etc... etc...).

St. Paul writes about this in Romans 7. He is probably not writing about himself or even Christians, but people have identified with this passage for a long time, "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"

Lent finds us here, right in the middle of Romans 7, exposing light to our darkness and realizing that we struggle. The struggle is a sign of brokenness. But the struggle and the darkness and the brokenness do not have the final word. There is relief. There is victory. There is Easter Morning. St. Paul answers his own question quoted in the last line above. He says, "What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7 leads to Romans 8 (go figure) which allows Paul to shout from the roof tops:
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
There is something bigger than my darkness. There is something that fights my darkness. It is not light alone. Light exposes darkness, but exposing it is not enough. I know my own brokenness. I know my own failings. Exposure is not the final word. Love is the final word. Light can be cold and sterile but love brings warmth. Love brings action. "God’s love was revealed to us in this way: God sent God’s only Son into the world so that we might live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent the Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins [brokenness, darkness]" (1 John 4:9-10).

The core Christian belief is that God came to us in the form of Jesus Christ. That in so doing, God took a human body. God took up the struggle. God took up the darkness. God took up the brokenness. By living, Christ brought life to light. By dying, Christ put darkness and death to the grave. By rising again on Easter morning, Christ has destroyed death and gave us a glimpse of a new order, a new creation, a new and everlasting life available to us here and now that once we enter into, we remain for ever. This is Christianity. This is the Good news! (2 Timothy 1:10). Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389 ad), the bishop of Constantinople, said it this way, "What is not assumed, is not redeemed!”

I do not practice Lent to earn God's love. My failure at keeping my own standards, or any standards for that matter, does not cause God to love me any less. Lent is the perfect time time to have our darkness exposed to light. We will see our struggle. We will sense within ourselves a fight between good and broken. And that is ok... that is what Lent is for. But take heart, for those who desire healing and light and good, there is love.


If there is anything in this post that makes you want more or to go further or move deeper into this love, feel free to message me on facebook.

Comments

  1. I liked the last paragraph a lot. "I do not practice Lent to earn God's love." I think that's a really good point, and makes us understand what Lent is really all about: looking to the cross. The biggest misunderstanding I've run into among Christians regarding their view of the gospel is that they believe they are saved by grace, but then it's up to them to stay in God's favor, often leading to constant dejection or constant pride and smugness. It's all about the cross and Christ alone! Good blog post.

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