Lenten Confessions and Prayers
"There is no spring without winter" has never held quite as much context for me as it has since we have lived in West Virginia. This winter wasn't bad, but I've experienced some long winters that felt severe to this native Californian. And I have never appreciated spring more than after a long, cold winter.
The same is true for the winters and springs of my life in a metaphorical way.
This year began with suffering. My nephew was killed in a violent crime. And a few days later my mother-in-law had to be admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. The first week of February I suffered a deep and painful personal loss that felt as debilitating as a death. And for the first three months of the year, I helped my mother-in-law get through multiple health challenges, undergo new treatment, and fight her way back to health again. I spent most of my time in Nashville -- where her specialist is and where she received weekly treatment and monitoring -- until the beginning of April. So I was away from John a lot as he battled flu and pneumonia here at home.
I'm thankful to report that both John and his mom have rebounded and are in good health. And I'm thankful I have been able to come home and resume our normal routine. I do love spending time in Nashville regularly. But I enjoy it more when John is with me.
Because I was in a hard place, I think, I flirted with the idea of observing Lent this year. I did not grow up in a Christian tradition that practiced Lent. I thought of it strictly as a Catholic ritual for most of my life. And I have never felt inclined to participate. But this year I wanted to pursue spiritual renewal. I considered giving up Facebook and then decided I needed that connection with friends while I was in so many other battles. And instead I embarked upon a prayer journey.
I decided to take on a forty day prayer challenge. And I started writing (typing) my prayers as a journal. But I made a point of not approaching it as a performance based exercise. I wanted to forge a deeper relationship and not reinforce years of looking at reading and praying as an accomplishment in which I either succeeded or failed to please God. One of the things I have learned about God at this point in my life is that it's my heart He looks at; not my performance. I know that He is pleased by my desire to be closer to Him more than having a perfect attendance in showing up to go through the motions of any spiritual discipline. And that is what I tried to focus on.
I'm glad my focus wasn't a perfect performance. I would have to give myself a D if performance was the goal. I like to think God would have been more compassionate and given me a C. But in spite of less than stellar consistency, I did achieve the more important goal of a stronger connection with God. I journaled prayers some days and said shorter prayers on some days, but on the days I wrote to Him, I found my communication channel and had much longer conversations. I find it uncomfortable to talk with no verbal response. But it feels completely natural for me to write or type, pouring my heart out, with no verbal response coming back to me. So prayer became easier on the days I wrote. And connection grew stronger. Some of my prayers were four and five pages in length. I would have struggled to pray that long if I hadn't been writing. But something happens when I sit at a keyboard. Everything just flows from my heart. And while I always worry that I am too long winded for some people, and that I may become laborious or a bother; I know that I am never too long winded or laborious for God. With Him, I don't feel the need to apologize for who I am. He created me this way.
I'm in tears as I'm writing this blog post because God has demonstrated His redemption-faithfulness to me even through my failure to measure up to forty days of fasting from anything or consistently adding something during this holy season. He has reminded me that the renewal He gives, HE GIVES. I don't earn it. Every time I've reached out to Him for help, for grace, for mercy, for compassion, for peace over the last few months, He has been waiting for me and has helped me. He led me to wisdom and understanding when I needed that. He gave me strength I did not possess within myself to endure through painful struggles. He soothed my grief and my despair. He quieted my fears. He empowered me through His grace to make difficult choices when it would have been easier to fall back into old patterns of behavior, which I recognize as unhealthy.
The point is simply that I did not show up consistently for Him every day of the last forty days. But He still showed up consistently for me. And that is the meaning of Easter. Christ has done for me what I could not and cannot do for myself. He paid my ransom. He provided my redemption. And through His sacrifice on my behalf, I can live life as an overcomer no matter how much I may struggle.
Romans 10:9 (NLT)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rejoice in knowing that
He is risen!