Reflections on the Lent that…wasn’t

Back in early February I wrote this post on Lent.  This morning after I tucked little Jack in for his morning nap I read it again.  And I cried.  Granted, my February post on Lent was wary.  But I was also hopeful.  I felt like I had dipped my spiritual toes in some holy water, and I hoped I would find myself, at the end of Lent, no longer tentatively dipping my toes into the pools of this sacred water but swimming through it with swift, sure strokes. 
I pictured myself as a sleep-deprived ascetic who still managed to glide peacefully through her day because she had perched herself at Jesus’ feet and shared with him her early morning cup of coffee. 
I crafted a poetic picture of this journey through the waters of Lent.  I knew–or at least I thought I knew–that the waters would sometimes be rough.  I imagined that, at times, I would feel waterlogged rather than weightless.  But I thought I could do it.  I didn’t conceive of the audacious notion that, as soon as the waters rose above my head I would lose my footing and, spiritually speaking, drown.
But I did. 
Apparently, when Lent moved from the poetic to the gritty, I couldn’t take it. 
What does that say about me?  One thing it says about me is that I’ve read too many books.  Lent does not follow the plotline of poetic prose. 
That’s the least of what it says about me, though.  I don’t like to think about what else it means. 

So here I am, on the other side of Lent.  I found some redemption in our church‘s Tenebrae service.

But just some redemption.  Mostly, I feel like I’ve crawled out of the holy waters of Lent and onto the very rocky shores of disappointment in my lack of discipline, my humanity, my failure.  I stand here dripping wet, cold and shivering, and looking back through wet eyes at what this experience could have been, what it might have been, what it wasn’t.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you Jill, for sharing such a personal reflective post. Some of my darkest moments have been while I focused on my failures, my ‘could’ve beens’, my ‘where I could be now if I had not ________ ‘ (fill in the blank).
    I’ve watched the video. How beautiful. Our church had ‘darkening’ service featuring the last 7 statements of Christ. The church became progressively darker until at Christ death, the church was completely dark and we left in complete silence (even to our cars). It too was a powerful reminder of what God through Christ has done for us.

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  2. Posted by frenchgirl on March 26, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    girl, you know i’m right there with you, only i could never express it so well. it’s going to be ok. i love melanie’s bracelets that say brOKen (emphasis on ok). we are incredibly weak, and i think if we realize that, we are so much closer to receiving grace and slowly moving toward the goal of becoming more like Christ.

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  3. Posted by teason on March 26, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    what would have happened if you would have succeeded? would you feel great about yourself? about how you conquered lent (or rather how you conquered yourself or that part of you that you wish to conquer)? i think both of your posts on lent are awesome and point exactly where they should. we all wish we could be more disciplined. but i’m glad it didn’t come for you in the place of recognizing that it’s not all about you. (i’m not saying it would have, just that it’s great that it didn’t.) and while i understand the regret about how you feel you somehow missed out, don’t be so quick to cast a shadow over what you’ve learned in this. be glad that you haven’t lived your life with “perfect” lenten seasons while never experiencing a need for redemption. you know that you need it and i think that’s the purpose of lent. good job.

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  4. I agree so much with what has already been said. I’ve experienced similar things, and they’re really hard. I would so much rather succeed, and conquer, as teason said, than to disappoint myself and (I think) everyone else, to be weak and measly and pitiful. I don’t want to be so wretched as to need Jesus that badly. But that vulnerability really helps me accept the grace. I think God likes it when our guard is down.

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  5. Thank you, everyone, for your comments!
    Kelly, the darkening service sounds so moving! I’d like to be part of something like that sometime.
    Frenchgirl, I have one of those bracelets, and I love the reminder. 🙂
    Teason, you are so, so right. I’m such a “set a goal and conquer it” sort of person. I _do_ wonder, had I “accomplished” my Lenten fast, if it would have ended up being all about me. It’s so hard not to go into something like this w/o an attitude of how it’s going to benefit ME.
    Manhattandoula, I don’t like it that vulnerability and grace go hand in hand. Couldn’t we just leave out the vulnerability part? 🙂
    Also, I think I struggle w/ the idea of how badly I need Jesus, if that makes sense. I don’t want to be “wretched.” It’s words like “wretched” that make me start to freak out. The thing is, I really don’t think I am wretched (does it bother anyone else that we sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”?). I can walk into a church and tell in about 30 seconds if it’s one that has internalized the “I am wretched” lingo of Christianity, and those places make my skin crawl. But then I get all confused. B/c if I’m not “wretched,” why do I need Jesus? (and I’m asking that question half-hypothetically/half-seriously). Please don’t burn me on the stake or anything….

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  6. Posted by freestyleroadtrip on March 26, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    I echo what Teason says. It is not about anything that we can do for God. We can’t do a damn thing for God. And if we could, it would be all about us. And we keep trying to make it all about us. I am more and more convinced that all God wants from me is to relate to him. Nothing more. And most of the time I need to just get out his way instead of trying to do all this stuff for him.

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  7. I always appreciate your honesty. Teason wrote what I wanted to say more precisely than I could have, so I will just say I agree with what he said. Also, maybe it helps to think of “wretched” not so much as repulsive, but as a lost cause – that is, without God’s grace epitomized in Christ. Someone might indeed be a fairly fine specimen of humanity, and I believe God appreciates the beauty of humanity the same way that we do. But at the same time, we are all lacking in a way that can only be filled by Christ. The desperation to have that need filled, and our realization that the other beauty in us means almost nothing to us without having that part of us that is lacking filled by Christ, is what makes us declare “I am a wretch!”

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  8. […] poetic Lenten goals from last year here.  And then to read about my ultimate Lenten failure click here (and I would highly, highly recommend clicking on the video to watch a bit of last year’s […]

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