What if Lent were more about trusting God, then fasting? I’ve been asking myself this question since the season began less than a week ago. I often feel that I have to ‘earn’ the love of those around me. The inherent fear with that thought process is that if I mistake or don’t meet other’s expectations then they will cease to love me. When I say that out loud it sounds ridiculous. Yes, this may be true for some of my superficial relationships, but not most of them. Being an achiever of other’s love makes me a Lenten ninja. I can fast and make myself disciplined to prove to God that I am worthy of God’s love and grace.
Does this sound tiring? Yes, it most certainly is. I know I’m not alone because I’m a pastor and I hear so many people feeling like they didn’t do ‘enough’ to earn God’s grace and forgiveness. However, we all can say that God’s actions on the cross were ‘enough’. I preach in a denomination that considers grace to be the main characteristic of the heart of God, but I don’t trust my own theology. Do I believe it? Yes, however, I still work to hedge my bets to get gold stars from God for being the BEST, MOST AWESOME Christian.
A good friend recently pointed at that this mentality is not trusting people or their love for me. If I trusted their love, then I would trust their forgiveness and grace and assuming they are people who don’t keep their word. That wasn’t a truth I really wanted to hear. It made all my accomplishments and gold-star faith, not faith at all. Faith without works is dead but works in place of faith and trust in the Divine is exhausting. It isn’t intentional that we as Christians strive to impress God with our ribbons, trophies, and committee membership, we simply find the concept of God’s unconditional love to be audacious. It is. That doesn’t make it untrue.
Lent provides a season in which Christians fast in some form to truly seek after God and remove the worldly things that take our eyes off Jesus. It isn’t the season that we enter a religious death match of righteousness or holiness. It is meant to drive us to the holy by admitting we need it. If we try to achieve it, then we haven’t fully admitted our brokenness and need for Holy Week.
Lent isn’t a test of my ability to stick to a fast but is a holy time that acknowledges I will ALWAYS fail in saving myself and maintaining a pure heart. When I treat God’s love as something to be earned and not received, I am not trusting. My life preaches a theology that my mouth claims as untrue.
Lent takes the structure of life and shatters it. Lent means when we repent, we are forgiven and loved beyond measure. The world is set up with the Newtonian cause and effect that sin will lead to death, but Lent tears that universe apart and gives grace to those who ask for it. The season culminates in the cross and resurrection that split the veil and I don’t have to pretend to live in a world where a veil still exists.
No fast or sin can make God love me any more or any less. Lent comes to remind us to trust that God is wandering in the desert with us and desires to offer atonement and forgiveness. Lent is our journey to the cross where we die to ourselves and are raised again with Christ. Perhaps dying to ourselves is declaring that we can’t save ourselves nor can we perfect ourselves and choosing to trust in the One who creates, redeems, and sustains. This Lent I’m not “fasting” in the traditional sense. I’m fasting from the pressure to be perfect and relying on myself to be worthy of what the cross freely gave-life.