Lent, Week 6: my love affair with Lent

I can't end "It is finished" week without resharing this excerpt from As Soon As I Fell, all about the time God told me "Enough, already."


My love affair with Lent began on Ash Wednesday, 2004.  I didn’t know what Ash Wednesday was (it’s the first day of Lent), and I wouldn’t have gone, but the choir was singing.  Since I had just joined the choir, there I was.

One of the things we did, that Ash Wednesday, was to write on an index card what we were giving up for Lent.  Then we would nail the card to a huge wooden cross at the altar rail. 

I personally felt like I had already given up plenty of things in my years in the Solomons, and I was just beginning to enjoy Coke and hamburgers and TV again, so I wasn’t interested in giving any of that stuff up.  I sat there with my card, thinking, “I have to nail this thing to the Cross, so what am I supposed to give up?” 

And this is what I heard:  “Fear.”

That was a hard one.  So many difficult and painful things had happened, and I was used to living in a state of anxiety and watchfulness.  But I heard that I should give up fear.  That’s what I wrote, and that’s what I nailed.

A few weeks later, I was at a women’s retreat which happened to fall on the weekend of Palm Sunday.  The first question they asked at that retreat was, “What does God want to give you?”

And this is what I heard: “Hope”.

That was also a hard word for me to receive.  All my hope in the past had been based on my own behavior, my own goodness.  I said I hoped in God, but mostly I hoped that I would be good enough to keep the bad away.   My experiences over time had forcefully demonstrated that my good behavior was no defense against the badness lurking in the world.  I knew in my head that I could not hope in my own goodness any more, but letting go of that in my heart was not easy.  That day, all day, I wrestled with shedding the control that felt so safe and secure:  my performance, my perfection, my goodness, my enough-ness.

Later that evening, we shared communion, with candlelight, bread, juice, silence, and love in the room.  Pastors from the church were sitting off in the corners, ready to listen to anyone who needed to talk. 

I went and sat down in front of a pastor I’d never met before, and haven’t seen since.  I wanted to tell him a little of my story, but all I could say was, “I’m a missionary,” before I started sobbing. 

I sat and cried for a long time, and the only other thing I could get out was:  “When will it ever be enough?”

That man looked at me and said, “It is enough already.”

With those words, a sense of freedom and peace came over me, like I had never known.  For the first time, I actually experienced the reality of Jesus’ words, “It is finished” on the cross.  Those words covered everything.  Everything is done already.  God has taken care of it.  Sure, there is work, and I can participate.  But I’m going to walk in the cool of the evening and know for sure that it’s not all up to me.  It is enough already. 

It is finished.

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