As we begin Holy Week tomorrow, now seems a good time to sit down and review how Lent has been going.
For some, Lent seems to be 40 days of doing without, whether it be chocolate or Facebook, or anything else, and by this stage Easter can’t come soon enough! Indeed we may have a few relapses already, and it is only with grim determination that we are going to stay the course.
For others, Lent has been about starting some new spiritual discipline, but by now it’s become clear that taking up a new discipline has been more complicated than we thought. The general busyness of each time, or fatigue or illness, have taken their toll. We may well be wondering by now whether we really want to carry on with it.
I shared at the beginning of Lent that I had two goals for the season. One was to actually start the day by doing something productive, rather than wasting time on the Internet. The other was to try and find some space in each day. I have found the first goal relatively straightforward, and I can see how I really have benefited by concentrating on the task on hand. The second goal, however, has been more difficult to achieve and like many people I guess I can blame circumstances for that.
But I will persevere, because I believe Lent is meant to be far more than a time of denial where we count down the days before we go back to what we really enjoy doing.
After all, the basic standard that the Lord demands of our life is holiness. The people of Israel were told: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy (Lev 19:2 and elsewhere) and this demand is repeated in the New Testament (1 Pet 1:15-16). Indeed we are told in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness no-one will see the Lord. Why? Because it is the quality of our lives which will prove whether we really are the children of our heavenly Father.
Now holiness doesn’t come overnight. It takes time and effort and indeed is a lifetime’s work. Lent as a season of self-discipline is part of this process of becoming more like the Lord, and it needs to be seen in this broader perspective. So the purpose of each Lent is to produce fruit that will last, rather than serve as an interruption to our normal way of life.
All this can make the Christian life sound like hard work, and indeed sometimes it is. But as we strive to become more like the Lord, we need always to remember He gives us His Holy Spirit. The Lord doesn’t give us a standard to keep and expect us to reach it in our own strength. Rather, as we understand the challenge of becoming more the people He calls us to be, so we are meant to recognise and realise our utter dependence on the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives.
So before we begin Holy Week, it seems to me good that we use what remains of Lent remembering just why we are in need of God’s grace. So that when Easter comes, our greatest desire will not be go onto Facebook or raid the chocolate box (even though we may feel both are necessary) but to offer our lives in thankfulness for all that Jesus has done for us, who underwent the discipline of the cross so that we could become children of our loving Heavenly Father.