It is Sunday afternoon, a dreary, cooler day in Austin with touches of spring all around. I have a full tummy after eating Chuy’s Mexican food for lunch, and our little boy is in the process of getting his dirty diaper changed, having left a not-so-fragrant waft as he passed by me on his way to the bathroom. College basketball is on in the background, and I’m trying to put some semblance of a post together, fighting the urge to curl up into a ball and rest, letting the fuzziness of not sleeping well and losing an hour of precious slumber fade away. But my mind keeps going, trying to work its way around all that I’ve been reading and processing lately, all that I heard in church today, the first Sunday of Lent. It was all so meaningful and rich. This isn’t going to be a polished, well-crafted post. It’s simply one for me to record some thoughts that I hope linger in my soul.
This season of Lent, the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, has been in years past, a time I’ve dreaded, wrecked with heart-ache. And yet, there was always light and hope that crept around the corner, non-coincidentally right around Easter when I could see the beauty that had arisen from the ashes of my grief. It might take a life-time to see it, or maybe it won’t be until we reach heaven’s side will we have eyes to see fully, but there’s nothing about death and grief that with Jesus won’t be turned into life and hope, used for good.
Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are has been pivotal for me in the last month. In the eighth chapter, she writes beautifully about trust and fear, and what it means to live a life of YES! to Jesus. Similarly, we sang “Blessed Assurance” today in church, and the last verse captures the content of Ann’s message perfectly:
Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
After reflecting on Jesus’ revelation to her about those things, she brings up a real point we all deal with come Monday morning, come the nitty-gritty of life. We forget. Things like schedules, burned toast, crying children steer away our focus from Jesus and His goodness and allow worry to creep in. And there are even bigger things than those that we can find on our plates: “Where is my child’s heart headed? Am I living God’s best for this life or am I bankrupting any legacy of faith?”
That last question stopped me dead in my tracks. I read it over and over again, and there was a pit in my stomach as I continued reading the chapter. I felt uneasy and unsettled. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with: fear, anxiety, worry. In a chapter that ironically is about trust and fear (the antithesis of trust, of active-believing faith) I was shaken by a question that wasn’t even the point of her chapter. But her example of that trap of worry is one I fell head into while reading! And maybe, just maybe, the legacy of faith that I’m allowing to be bankrupt from this life of mine is because I’m fearful: fearful of messing up, failing, of missing something important and vital to train my children, of making wrong decisions. And yet, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV). In response, Ann writes, “If God didn’t withhold from us His very own Son, will God withhold anything we need?”
My fear of failing limits God, His faithful provision and His love, for both me and my children. What can He not give that He’s already given us in Jesus? He’s wisdom. He’s good. He’s never-ending love. He’s safe. And the more I know of Him, the more I want to trust Him—to live a life of yes. So this Lent, while our family gathers around the Advent-to-Lent Wreath around our dinner table and reads a devotion, there have been a few things that I want this season of Lent to look like in my life as I prepare for Easter. Instead of dreading Lent, of being in fear of what grief or heart-ache I might walk through like in seasons past, I want to be in a posture of the following:
- Having an attitude of humility, recognizing my complete need for Him and my frailty of living in fear; and instead, making a conscious Spirit-guided and Spirit-dependent decision to walk in trust, in active-believing faith.
- To slow down. To be content in the quiet.
- To remember and be thankful, recognizing the immense blessings He’s given; acknowledging His goodness; remembering Jesus Himself, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). To live in intentional gratitude, “counting blessings to discover who can be counted on.” (Henry Township)
- To be in prayerful, communion with Jesus.
Our church service today included the Southwell Litany, a set of twenty different prayers that were read aloud and a communal response of, “Save us and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord,” followed. As we started praying, I consciously wanted to single out a few of the prayers that were meant for me, so to speak, ones that targeted my own weaknesses to take home and continue to pray through Lent. Well, out of twenty, every single one had a little sting to it as I recognized that my sins cover the whole gamut of life! But the prayers were so deep and meaningful, rich and comprehensive. I didn’t feel hopeless, just humbled recognizing my need for Jesus. I brought home the prayers to help guide me in my fourth posture. I hope to share a few of these along the way with you, but want to share this one today:
O Lord, free us from weariness in continuing struggles; from despondency in failure and disappointment; from overburdened sense of unworthiness; from morbid fancies of imaginary backslidings, raise us to a lively hope and trust in thy presence and mercy, in the power of faith and prayer; and from all exaggerated fears and vexations.
Save us and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.
Blessed assurance, Jesus in mine!
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
There is no one like Jesus.