Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.—Joel 2:12-13
Lent is messy business! Most especially if you let Jesus have control of it. How could that happen? Well, first of all, you allow Jesus to have his say-so in your life and as you sit with him in prayer, you give him permission to transform you into his image. Then, go from there.
You all know that my winter has been rough. There has not been enough light or sun-filled days. Because of this, I have had more winter depression than usual although it has been better, recently, with the return of longer, light-filled days. But there has been inner turmoil even then. That usually means a bit of transformation is in the making. I was looking forward to Lent and had some “giving-up” and “taking-on” planned, so imagine my surprise on Tuesday of this week during prayer when I was, suddenly, given names for the inner turmoil. They came in the form of feelings. I feel insecure, inadequate, and insignificant. I feel somehow lost and abandoned. Oh. Umm? As I looked these feelings in the face, I was puzzled because they are not accurate of me. I am none of these or at least only marginally so, I thought. What is this about? I often come out of a deeper than normal winter depression in a new place. Apparently, Jesus has taken over Lent?
In my prayer on Ash Wednesday, I asked, “In light of all these feelings, what do you want me to do for Lent?” I had thought about the taking better care of my body and de-cluttering the house—making space. Jesus said, “Keep it simple.” “Oh.” What does “simple” mean here? Then I said, “What about others? What shall I do there?” The answer, “I’ll take care of that.” “Uh oh.” Well, maybe, I’ll keep you posted in this process. Anyway, don’t be too surprised about what Jesus does with your Lent if you let him. Remember Lent is a gift not a rule.
I am thinking about these feelings. I don’t really know why the depth of them is there for me, but I know that Jesus knows and he must want to do something with them. And I know, that as we walk this Lenten journey with Jesus to the cross, he has felt every single one of them, himself.
“In Christ alone my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground; firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All. Here in the love of Christ I stand.” (Stuart Townend, Keith Getty)