Confessions of a Lenten failure
Lent was always my favorite time of year. Always, that is, until this year. I’ve been a complete and utter failure this Lent. And it’s gotten me wondering, what was it in the past that I loved about it so much? And why have I flopped so tremendously this time around?
Here’s the thing: I used to be good at Lent. I stuck to my resolutions like it was my job. I slept on the floor on Good Friday. I turned my nose up with aplomb the sight of sweets. I avoided Facebook like the plague. I racked up those Lenten brownie points like nobody’s business. Lent and I, we were a great pair.
But therein lies the rub: Lent is not something we’re meant to be “good” at. For weeks I’ve been hung up on my slip ups, my caving to the Cadbury mini eggs calling my name, my instinctual Facebook browsing when boredom overcomes me, my starts and stops amidst spiritual reading. I’ve been a failure this time around, and that’s a good thing.
Now don’t get me wrong, it certainly is good and pleasing to God when we are faithful to our commitments, when we adjust our way of life, even radically, for His sake, when we make sacrifices out of love for Him. But if all those lead to pride, self-satisfaction, a pile of brownie points? That’s not good and pleasing to God. And that, I believe, is where I’ve ended up in the past.
But now, I’m a failure. A weak and sinful human greatly in need of God’s mercy, patience, and grace. And you know who gives me such hope? Peter. Oh, Peter. How simple, how stubborn, how blind he can be! How much like myself. Here’s what he tells Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Eager Beaver Peter. What a guy. And Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, Amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” Yikes.
Will you pray a holy hour every day and take the train on Fridays and avoid your craving for sweets and finish every book you’ve started and lay down your life for me, Emma? No, Jesus. I didn’t.
I’ve denied Him. I’ve gone back on my promises. I’ve caved and reneged and justified my pretty little way out of many of my Lenten commitments. But still, He gives me the chance to love Him. Still He forgives me and welcomes me back. And this time I come to Him not with a chest puffed up with pride, but with a sorrow for my sins and an earnest desire to be healed, changed, saved by Him.
So, Jesus, here’s my prayer this week: I know I will fail You, but even my failures are Yours. I’ll have the best intentions and the highest hopes, and however they turn out, I am Yours. And however many times I fall, it’s You who picks me up. You who will conquer the grave. Sounds like victory to me.