Lent: Mourning our Plight
The Lenten season can often magnify the plight of our human nature: strive, fail, guilt, repeat.
I had the audacity to attempt to fast from “avoidance” this year. At first, I thought the idea was incredibly godly, but now I’m thinking it was born of youthful ignorance and cockiness. I set out to refrain from using or doing all things which drew me away from the true purpose of each present moment. I thought I had the upper-hand going into this, since I was already fairly certain that the purpose of every moment is to yield submissively to God. However, the actual act of disallowing my unyielding nature to meddle in this striving for perfect submission was essentially an attempt to fast from all sin—only I didn’t realize it until I tried it.
I would stand in my ready position as each moment came at me. I tried to meditate on the purpose of the present and my intent of submission, but I had no attention span for this kind of constant awareness. I tried to determine my appropriate outward responses in light of a submissive mindset, but found that I suddenly had no discernment whatsoever. Analysis paralysis was all I had to show for my practice. The “tug” was tangible—in this moment, was that God wanting me to act, and Satan sabotaging my will? Or was it Satan wanting to distract me, and God pulling me back? Without discernment, I relied on my “oughts and shoulds” to dictate my actions, and fell into a depression-like state of fatigue. Or maybe it was my allergies? Or the kid’s fifth round of fighting before breakfast? Discernment! Come baaaaaaaack!
I grew tired from the striving, and heavy in my failure, and hopeless in the knowledge that humanness was looming in each next moment. I was doomed to guilt, and guilt doomed me to start the same process over again. Cease all sin? By noon, on the second day of Lent, this discipline caused an all-system shut-down. Jumbled fragments came out of my mouth, I walked in circles, coiled springs popped out of my ears… Perhaps I should have selected something less ambitious, like fasting from calories for 40 days.
Christ suffered when He became like us, and we suffer as we become like Him. There is such an impossible chasm between us and God! How gracious of God that He should sustain us at all as we live according to our old nature! We are so wrought with sin, we can’t even see it against the backdrop of more sin. How gracious is His patience with us! How gracious is He to become our strength as we strive to be in His presence. How gracious is His love which saves us from the bond of failure, and frees us from the weight of its guilt.
As we approach the day that stands for triumph and salvation from our failing nature, we also have to approach the reality of our need for that salvation. As says my husband Lance, in order for us to accept restoration we have to first accept that we are broken.
So for all you fellow guilt-ridden friends who have failed, blessed are you who mourn. Perhaps it means you are seeing the true reflection of your brokenness. It might mean you are experiencing the doom of imperfect nature. If you have tasted the goodness of the kingdom of heaven, then maybe you are remorseful of the diversions you have entertained, and the moments wasted, and the interruption of life that occurs when broken off from God’s reality.
Blessed are you who mourn the ways which have kept you apart from God, for He turns the sadness for your brokenness into gratitude for your present salvation. Blessed are you who mourn the truth of who you are apart from God, for he will transform your inadequacies into perfection as you dwell in His presence. If you are seeking the presence of God because you mourn the plight of our human nature, then blessed are you, for you will be comforted.