*Updated on 2.12.16.
I was raised in the church. Around amazing leaders, congregations, teaching, and warmth. I attended 2 churches from the ages between 3 years old to 26 years old. When I moved East at 26, I had to look a little harder, but God directed me ever-so-graciously to a church body that will continue to shape who I grow to become. The lessons I learned while living in MA, the people who influenced me, the good and not-so-good memories…they all produce such thanksgiving in my heart for how my Father orchestrated my years.
Three churches for most of my entire life. Three spectacular images of the Body of Christ. Sound doctrine, the absence of legalism or works-based heretic thought. I am incredibly fortunate to have learned from men and women what the Word of God says and how the Spirit moves each day to give me a deeper understanding of the letters of love and promise.
Yet in none of these churches, did we observe Lent.
I had Methodist friends in high school that would practice it and share a little about what it was, what is represented. I always respected the idea of it. Even though my Southern Baptist church in my youth was more liberal, and my non-denominational church both in college and again in the East were focused on exploring the Word of God more than a denominational subset of belief systems and “rules”, I have still supported tradition in some forms and respected practices many other denominations adhered to. I never thought tradition was the misplacement, yet the attitudes behind some of the reasons traditions are held and enforced moreso give me personal pause.
Like anything – the heart is to be examined. Do I do what I do because I feel obligated? Do I do what I do because of guilt if I don’t? Do I do what I do to seem more holy to those around me or for attention from the world? Does anyone do what they do because someone tells them they will not receive the grace and favor of God otherwise?
These are when tradition is a dangerous hoax.
“You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.”
Psalm 51:16-17 HCSB
“Doing” for mere act of “doing” is undesirable to God. Think about that.
He doesn’t want my practices. My checklist. My guilty conscious for neglecting Him.
He wants me. Just me. My open heart, releasing everything just to be near Him. Naming my brokenness, admitting my sin, and offering it all to Him knowing He will be the Potter to shape me new.
It is with this knowledge – with the promises I have from my Maker – that I have been eagerly seeking this season to observe for the first time: Lent.
It’s a beautiful tradition to me, and while I have spent days fasting a praying different times in my life, I’ve not joined together with the body for 40 days of focusing on sacrificing myself, my distractions, my hinderances that I’ve built between my Father and me. Throwing off all that I’ve allowed to obstruct my airway to Life in freedom.
I can hardly wait to see what He will reveal to me. However, I am not coming with expectations. That is not what I mean when I say this. I just know – from reading His Word and conversing with wise council (I have the best friends/brothers/sisters in the Body!), through prayer and my own past experiences: Yahweh not only delights in revealing Himself to His people – He makes that His sole purpose. Bringing us to Himself. Divulging the mysteries of His character, His will. Manifesting His love for us in abundant ways.
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
“O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
…they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.”
Psalm 34:8, 10b
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I have been in times of great want. Times of scarcity and times of lack. And it is during those times when I have experienced His presence more tangibly, more complete. I have felt Him so near – hand-holding, head-in-lap comforting, calm whispering beside me. It’s hard to use words to explain, but that is the Lord I serve. One who is near. Palpable. Involved. Provisional of everything He has to give…Himself.
And so I enter into this season with the knowledge that He will show up. He will ask for my brokenness and He will transform all I am willing to surrender. And friends, I want to be refined. I want to be renewed. So that I can be ready for the ministry to which He calls me to. In all its forms and moments.
After all, Lent was modeled after Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. He was fasted and was tempted. He met each of Satan’s taunts with truth. Remember, Christ had the Spirit with him (descended at the Jordan, after John baptized Jesus, from which Jesus immediately was led into the wilderness). And immediately after He finished victorious — denouncing Satan’s schemes and lies and resting in the truth of God — Christ began His ministry. (See Matthew 3:13-17 through 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-14)
I see this Lenten season as my own opportunity to examine my heart. Quiet the clanging I’ve created as interference to my relationship with my Savior. Repent of the times I have listened to Satan’s distortions. Repent of my affinity for idol worship in all its wretched forms. Repent and shout songs of joy and praise that I am the daughter of King who stands at the gates celebrating my return. No matter how many times I defy His wishes, scale the fortress walls to forgo a kingdom for a barren wasteland – He keeps watch for me and never stops welcoming me home.
I ache for the strength to hear a lie and name it so. To shout in the face of temptation that I am free! I am forgiven! I am Someone’s and cannot be shaken from worth.
I have the abundant joy of a special help during this, my first Lenten season. Kris Camealy
has written a beautiful companion book, unfolding a journey of refinement. Holey, Wholly, Holy
is something I could not be more excited to explore – especially during this time. My dear writer-friend has already been a helper for me as I ask her questions she so mercifully answers and as she encourages me each week as we navigate our passion for writing together and learning how to grow in His beauty. In addition, I’ll be adding her book as my next book to review! It’s not a Tyndale book like my others, but I have the honor of reviewing directly for Kris and her purposes and honestly, for you – in hopes that you’ll be blessed by her writing as well. Yes, she has written this book for a Lent journey, yet it is not to be held only for that time. It’s beyond 40 days. It’s not even structured as such. It is for this journey of refinement we all find ourselves on. One, I truly hope, we all seek desperately to walk through. For I cannot speak for you, but I never want to be left where I’m at
. I continually seek change and long to be less like me (in my fleshly, sinful nature) and so much more like Christ. Grafted to the Father. Led by the Spirit. Glorifying His holy name with every breath He gifts me with on earth. Until I am home, I am His to use. That is my dream.
May this 40 day journey help me come all the more close to losing myself so I may gain Him.