This year I observed Lent. It isn’t something I do every year, but I wanted to emphasize something to myself, and in my life, that the observance of Lent is particularly conducive to: the diminishing of self-life in respect to the cross. The cross ought, in and of itself, stir up this remembrance within us, but maybe for reasons proffered in the Post Modern Easter post, but we left out many of the sacrificial parts of what the cross means.
Every time we see a cross it ought to shout to us of death of self, of suffering for righteousness, of mortifying this flesh… that is, putting an end to the domination of life by our selfish desires and motives. But like the well-known story of many of today’s soldiers we retort:”But I didn’t sign up for war, I didn’t expect to be asked to put my life on the frontline of the battlefield”. Not every solder, and not every Christian is so unaware of what it is we are signing up for… but I am afraid the PR men have done their job too well. It isn’t all about “seeing the world, and getting free education” and “prosperity and abundance” although some of it truly is… just not apart from our own commitment.
This year the Lenten season held a specific day of prayer along with fasting. It showed me two important things in that alone: this is a very effectual pairing of actions, and that I don’t do near enough of this in my life. It exposed, within, areas of unbelief; it exposed, from without, the determination of the spiritual enemy to maintain his strongholds. It has underlined for me the absolute need I have for God’s help and mercy. How deviously my own soul would boast of its own resources! Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of an abyss. In terms of dealing with our own difficulties or the challenges of evil in the world… if we are on our own then certainly Nietzsche spoke aright, we do become our own worst monster. But in dismissing God’s reality and willingness to intervene in our despairing circumstance, such ideas are all wrong. Lenten season encouraged me to look more at God, at what Christ has truly accomplished, quite apart from proving anything to me.
So often, as I think is quite common, prayers are linked with proofs. Those proofs are contained further inside our own arbitrary timeframe. At which point do we give up faith? At which point do we say, “God isn’t answering” ? In what way can we possibly ascertain that, except in the most simple and elementary things? And even in those, if we order God around “Do thus and so by this time”… how do we not try to become “god” ourselves? The circumscribed time of the Lent season showed me how short my own faith reaches, that as I moved on towards Easter I became weary, faith became more of a struggle. “What good are these efforts?” “Why should this even matter to God?” And then I would be ashamed that I had so little patience with God, and so many expectations and demands that insisted on recognition.
These were very good things to become aware of, as they are insidious underminings of confidence and faith. I was reminded of the scripture passage:
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. -Psalm 56:8,9
I was brought also to this one:
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
feeling that I knew now how that father felt… how coming to the barrier to one’s faith – all that can be done is cry for help to believe. We look so carefully upon the problem, and for so long, that that is more real to us than the salvation.
God help us that we do not stay there…. but that we move on to the Easter joy and triumph.