We are in the midst of observing Lent, the 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday. In some traditions, it’s common to make sacrifices during this time. To give up something and by so doing, create a trigger for being mindful of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
As a Presbyterian, this practice is not imposed upon the members of our church, because we rest in Christ’s atoning work as the Ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins. It is by grace through faith that you have been saved. (Eph. 2:8) And certainly, we are not accepted more by God for giving up desserts or caffeine for six weeks.
But, I like celebrating and participating in anything that helps me slow down and be intentional in my observations. Especially when I can be made aware of just how much I turn to something other than Christ to define and ‘rescue’ me. I often sail through life unaware of how much my heart is set adrift.
For our family devotional time, we are reading the book of Luke while using Caleb Voskamp’s beautiful The Way of Light Advent/Lent Wreath(pictured above) to gain perspective that Christ’s road to Calvary was in fact a journey. One which consisted of sweet communion with His Father, but was also fraught with an agonizing separation from Him.
In Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life, he talks about Christ’s connection to the Father, and how “Jesus was the most dependent human being who ever lived.” That irony is not lost on me.
The fact that Jesus continually confessed He could do nothing without the Father in a world that scoffs at dependence, weakness and and asking for help. God in the flesh could not function alone though He had access to legions of aid with one word. Access to the very powers of Heaven.
I think about Jesus’ time on earth, how it was filled with engagement but also with withdrawal. Engaging with people to be poured out, and withdrawal to the Father to be filled. To be loved. Miller goes on to say, “That’s why contemplating the terror of the cross of Gethsemane was such an agony for Jesus. He had never experienced a moment when he wasn’t in communion with his Father. Jesus’ anguish is our normal.”
Feeling separated from God is often times my normal, because as I said before, there are many distractions in my life that cause my eyes to look away in hopes of finding security in other places. I tend to live a skittish life much afraid of the unknown dangers of this world. Sadly, lots of them are not unfamiliar to me.
I also like affirmation and stuff, because it makes me feel included living in a city that glitters. That’s why this Lent, I’ve decided to “fast” from my tendency to compare myself to others. Which is a ruse, because comparison is so deeply ingrained in me that the mere suggestion of another way to travel through life is foreign.
It simply does not compute, because judging myself in light of others is instinctive; a natural reflex. Just like getting tapped on the knee by the doctor and my leg responding.
Lately though, I’ve felt the ironic pain of being kicked by my own knee jerks when the urge of comparison presses on my nerves. I’m feeling bruised and battered by the constant striving to come out ahead or to be ‘enough’ in a world that knows no such finish line.
I cannot even check out groceries without the colorful pages screaming at me to be thinner, prettier, healthier, more successful as a home maker, more creative as a mom, and more sexy as a wife.
Sometimes it feels like a heavy burden that I drag around with me where ever I go.
And I long for another way. The Way. The Truth. And The Life.
I do hope that setting aside this season in awareness of my tendency to avert my eyes in search of something ‘better’ or always relying on worldly meter stick to validate my standing before God and others will teach me something about how lonely and fruitless that strategy truly is.
How there is so much more offered to me when I fix my eyes on Jesus, who fixed His eyes on the joy set before Him as He traveled that long road to the cross. Because what could make me feel more loved on this earth than pondering the fact that I was the joy set before Him.
As if there could be anything better than resting in the shadow of His Calvary love.
That I am not enough to validate my own standing, and none of my feeble attempts would have made it so.
But, that He is enough to satisfy, and I was enough for Him to leave the 99 sheep grazing in the field in order to pursue my heart that was/is lost in a wilderness of striving and comparison.
Amazing Love. How can it be? That you who knew no separation from the Father would experience just that so that I would never have to. May I not take that lightly today and may it give me heart.
Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”