I’ve never been especially graceful when it comes to Lent. My friend Melanie posted something about her challenges with it and I felt joined for the first time in my Lenten wrestling match. I love Lent – it is my favorite liturgical season – but that doesn’t make me “good at it.”I often think about what I’d like to do for Lent in advance only to discover that I was asking myself what I want to do rather than asking myself what will actually benefit my prayer life. Other times, I think something will benefit my prayer life only to discover that it distracts from my prayer. On really off years, I suffer a complete mental paralysis that makes it impossible to enter fully into Lent.
What is truly remarkable about this struggle to enter a Holy Lent in a graceful way is that the lack of grace improves my prayer life ten-fold which, in a backwards way, achieves the desired purpose. Each Lent I find myself repenting of my chaotic interior which distracts me from God so much of the time. In that repentance I am confessing and relying upon God for a major stumbling block in my life.
It is my lack of personal grace that helps me reflect upon and marvel at the divine Grace given to us all.
So, I suppose that means my Lenten discipline is coming to terms with the fact that I am an organizational hot mess a lot of the time. I have good intentions and I try harder than I should have to and still come up short. In essence, I am human. Coming to grips with our humanity is the soul of Lent. It is Jesus’ humanity that was tried by the devil in the wilderness. I’ve been asked by a few people just this week why Jesus didn’t just do what the devil was asking and then go all “God of the universe” on the devil to win the temptations. When we ask that it is because we are forgetting Jesus’ human nature. As Phillippians 2:5-8 tells us: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”
I want to pay closer attention this Lent. I find the Ignatian Examen helps me with this practice, but there are many ways we can focus on how our lives intersect with the divine. Whatever you do this Lent know that if you are stumbling in the dance, you are not alone.