Lent is here. What exactly is Lent anyway? Some will tell you that it’s the time of year before Easter that you give up meat on Fridays. Others give up chocolate or bad habits and still others intentionally try to do good deeds for their fellow man. Some people try to pray more often or read their Bible every day. This sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me, not at all the spiritual introspection I thought Lent was supposed to be. For many, religious tradition portrays Ash Wednesday as a day of guilt and ashes and the weeks that follow are more of the same. We are to search our hearts and minds to find every way we’ve fallen short of the glory of God and pray that his forgiveness will cover all our sins. Too many Christians worry all of their lives that they haven’t done enough to make up for their sins and that even though they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they still may not be good enough when they die to be with him in heaven. Too often, I find myself slipping into a similar frantic frenzy of self-condemnation.
It’s so easy to forget the Good News that Jesus brings. I don’t need to worry if I am good enough for God because I’m not. Never have been. Never will be. I don’t need to strive to do more good than evil because no matter how much selfless good I do, I can never make up for the sins I’ve committed and will continue to commit on a daily basis. I don’t have the ability to be righteous enough to enter God’s presence. This may sound depressing, but it is very good news. It is good news because God created me and he knows my limitations. He knows I’m not capable of the perfection his glory demands so he sent his perfect Son to take my place so that I might stand in his in God’s glory. I am helpless to save myself, but I am not hopeless because my hope lies in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His love and his sacrifice have created and continue to refine in me a new and holy heart – one that longs for God alone. Under my own power, I am inadequate, but I rejoice because through God’s power, I am made perfect in his sight. He gives me the courage, the ability, the love, and the dedication my humanness lacks.
For me, Lent is about recognizing how blessed I am that God loves me, that Jesus died and rose for me, and that the Spirit fills my heart and my life with his presence. Lent is a joyous time to remember the hope that Jesus brings and a celebration that my salvation does not depend at all on my ability, my life, or my actions, but solely on the love and redemptive work of God. For me, Lent is a time of profound gratitude. About the pictures: North Park (August 2009)