I have the privilege of working with many Christians – people who have been followers of Jesus Christ for a long time and have studied the word of God relentlessly. To put this into perspective, my boss is a Bishop and yet, when the SMT comes together on Wednesday mornings, there is a humility that guides our conversations that comes from labouring in the trenches alongside everyone else. We begin with scripture and prayer and take it in turns to lead.
Today, it was Helen’s turn. She led us through the book of Luke, chapter four: the temptation of Jesus. After Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, he went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights where he was tempted by the devil. He did not eat during those 40 days; he was hungry, tired and completely reliant on God. It was his own Lenten journey.
In the Christian calendar, Lent is the 40 days that take us from Ash Wednesday to Easter (not including Sundays). It is a time of preparation, penitence and reflection. Many Christians will give something up for Lent, such as alcohol or sweets. I also know many people who sign off of Twitter or Facebook for 40 days because ultimately, Lent is a time to curb cravings, simplify our lives and refocus on the things that really matter.
Helen pointed out how so much of the passage in Luke is about identity. It comes right after the genealogy of Jesus and just before he begins his ministry. For Jesus, his 40 days and 40 nights were an affirmation of who he was and who he belonged to. In the same way, Lent is about affirming our identity in Christ.
This year, however, it’s hard to distinguish where lockdown ends and Lent begins. I don’t know who I am, let alone what day it is. Last year I gave up drinking alcohol for Lent but just a few weeks in and London’s first lockdown went into effect. I was forced into juggling full-time work with full-time homeschooling and while I harnessed all my creative juices and chart-making abilities there is only so much one can do with impossible circumstances. Let’s just say, I didn’t make it. That seems like just last week and ten years ago all at the same time.
Almost one year later and, in truth, I feel like a fragile shadow of myself. All of the characteristics that once defined me have been called into question: my relationship with my husband, my children, friends and even my relationship with God, has struggled over the past year. My ability to work efficiently and effectively has been compromised and even in writing this post, I cannot seem to spell anymore nor form coherent sentences. I have no control. I feel like crying all the time and am exhausted from the moment I wake up to the moment I place my head on the pillow.
As Helen closed, she asked us to consider what we hoped for in this time of Lent and much like Jesus, I want to know who I am and who I belong to. I want to look in the mirror and not just see the dark bags under my eyes staring back at me, telling me that I am not good enough. I want to know with all my being that I am a child of God.
It’s not about how many items I can get checked off my to-do list. It isn’t about my kid’s Instagram worthy art projects. It isn’t about getting to that ideal weight or about my achievements because while God does care about these things, he only cares about them because he first cares about us. He wants us, first and foremost, to come to him. He wants us to bring our to-do lists, the things we are proud of, the things we’ve broken and our own broken hearts so that we might lay them down at the foot of the cross.
So this Lent, let’s journey to the cross. Bring all of the good and bad of who you are and lay it down.