There have been years when I’ve stumbled over Ash Wednesday in surprise, practically stubbing my toes on it while gazing elsewhere on the calendar.
But this year, I hailed the first day of Lent like an old friend spotted far off on the horizon. For better or for worse, our still-fledgling rhythm of traditions has usually marked this season with a distinctive lack of “things to do” — and today I’m persuaded to say it’s for the better. Advent is a steady stream of activity and happy anticipation in our home, but Lent, at least for me, is for solitude, and for fixing my eyes back on the Author and Perfecter of my faith… from whom they so often and so easily fall.
(Easter traditions are another matter entirely, but the two are linked; I’m sure that my view of Lent wouldn’t be as willingly reflective or full-hearted if it didn’t lead right up to that glorious and jubilant Sunday, and vice versa.)
I might have felt driven to plan something meaningful for the girls, but a recent silence in the presence of my King made me feel acutely how I’ve let guilt grow again onto my understanding of grace lately, like a stubborn layer of barnacles — and I was reminded that what my daughters need isn’t a mother adept at sermonizing every moment of our lives or doggedly sticking to a devotional routine for the sake of pious duty.
There is a vast difference between dispassionate, dutiful observance and real rejoicing in our rescue in Christ — and it’s the same difference that distinguishes a clanging cymbal from a live beating heart, as the Apostle Paul notes.
So this Lent, my own heart leaps at the thought of praying and reading the Bible and doing all I “ought to do” out of love. Simply that. Love for my Lord; love born of beholding Him on my own.
Much of that is taking place in a little nook in our room:
The chair was a staggeringly generous Christmas gift from my parents. I have no words for what it has meant to me even in these few short months — not as a comfortable or decorative piece of furniture (though it is!), but for all that it signifies: a few golden minutes here and there to sit and think, to pray and read, to look out the window at the sleeping garden under a clear azure sky.
Here I’ve been reading a book in the mornings, one which I purchased a few Easters ago but never finished. This is the year for Behold the King of Glory, and each reading has been leading me to a steady and sometimes confounded gaze at the Lord I’ve known for so long, but who seems astonishingly bigger this year than the last. It’s a taste of the way the disciples felt — the way I so often forget they felt, not having the advantage of hindsight:
Whatever it meant to follow him, they were beginning to understand that his path was heading somewhere, and if they were to follow, they would follow him to the advent of his “hour”–whatever that meant.
But his hour had not yet come–this much was clear. What had arrived was the end of the wedding. Jesus introduced his mother and brothers to his disciples, and together they set off for Capernaum, sixteen miles away on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, leaving behind a village full of questions, wonder, and a growing appetite for more. (Russ Ramsey, Behold the King of Glory, 39).
And yet one thing is unshakably certain, as I trace His movements: He is Love, undeviatingly intent upon the road that leads to His glory and my joy.
As I talk with Y, and my Father, and the small people who like to congregate under the reading table with their toy boats and ponies, I’m discovering more about my own shortcomings, my selfishness, my underlying misconceptions (like the idea that to be holy is to be ever serious, and the other way ’round). These are sobering, sometimes devastating, and yet I can’t help also feeling that all is just as it should be in this season — that such discoveries must be made if I want to take a closer look. These are signs of life, so long as I submit to the Master Gardener to be pruned. For the good news of the resurrection lives, and it blazes out with particular beauty in each approach we make to the throne of grace.
You forgave me; all my guilt is gone
You forgave me; all my guilt is gone
You forgave me; all my guilt is gone.
– Randall Goodgame, “You Forgave Me.“
I know the celebration of Easter is coming, and like an observer of a young tree mantling herself in a green mist of tiny leaves before blossoming out in spring flower, I don’t want to miss considering the necessity of His death even as I come to rejoice in His resurrection. It’s not unlike the evenings when we stare out into the growing darkness at our backyard tree, anticipation mounting, until the solar-powered “fairy lanterns” blink on to our exclamations of joy. I see where all my best efforts fail, and I see Jesus — and so I begin to comprehend the real beauty of what Christ in me means.
These are the thoughts underneath the hum and the buzz of usual activity in our house these days. For you, dear friends, I pray as a fellow traveler for rest and renewed joy this season, giving thanks for the refreshment and the grace you’ve extended even here, in this small corner! May we all take up the sweet, strong sensitivity that enlivens us to His intricate and intentional work around us…