Reflections on Clue #7

It’s Good Friday. Lent is nearly at an end. Now is as good a time as ever to look over our Lenten disciplines and take stock of where we’ve come. As many of the KAL-ers have been discussing our Lenten experiences on the Ravelry forum, it seems like a lot of what we are facing as we review Lent is just… failure.

Giving up knitting for Lent did not go exactly how I thought it would. During the first week or two, I had several good reflections and learned a lot about myself. But as fatigue set in, I just became more and more resigned to the fact that I cannot sit still. More than one class session was completely lost on me, as with nothing else to do, I did everything from doodle new designs to edit pictures to do administrative stuff on my laptop. (You will notice now that my entire archive of blog posts are now accurately archived.) One of the major sacrifices in giving up knitting was giving up the security of having something to do in my bag at all times, something to keep my hands busy if I was stuck in an unexpected corner with nothing to do. But towards the end, I’ve started occasionally putting my drop spindle and some fiber in my bag to take the edge off.

This has made me wonder if I shouldn’t be genuinely worried. If an activity is particularly engaging (like watching a movie in a theatre, or listening to a lecture from a famous person, or a good personal conversation), I can sit pretty still. And I have myself fairly well trained to sit through sermons quietly. But the majority of the time, I just can’t. As I sit in the car, holding the GPS in a death grip, or as I sit in class, making charts in excel, or as I chat with my friends, twisting and untwisting the tassels on the ends of an afghan, I wonder if there’s some real chemical brain dependency related to manual activity. As one friend suggested, “Maybe you should have taken up smoking for Lent!”

The point of spiritual disciplines in Lent is not to perform some great spiritual accomplishment, or to achieve some act of growth on our own. As I wrote at the start of this journey, fasting takes away the comforts we use to hide our weaknesses. Fasting brings those weaknesses to the surface so we can work on them. It’s hard, though, when confronted with those weaknesses, to feel anything but powerless. And facing the end of Lent, I feel as if I’ve taken more steps backward than forward. I guess, in some situations, the first step to be taken is the Socratic one, when the blinders are lifted and you realize just how far you have to go. It’s better than nothing, but it isn’t terribly comforting.

Yet after all this hand-wringing (literal and otherwise), I have to say that no matter how much of a failure you feel like at the end of Lent, it doesn’t really matter – Lent has succeeded if it drives you to the cross. And there’s nothing like facing sin and failure head on to drive one to one’s knees, thanking Jesus for taking the punishment we deserve so we can be acceptable to God despite our imperfections. No matter how much we screw up, God forgives us, because we’ve been reconciled through his Son. We can keep coming back to him over and over for the rest of our lives, because Jesus opened a way to the Father. The author of Hebrews nailed this fantastic truth down for us, saying so much in a few short sentences:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus has the job of judging us at the end of all things, but he took the punishment of that judgment upon Himself. He presents God to us in a way we can grasp, being fully God yet one of us, and he brings us to God with him, presenting us to God purified by his sacrifice. That’s what “priest” means – a mediator between God and humanity, the only person qualified to do so because he is completely both. He healed the breach – all we have to do is walk across it. And confronting my failure through the discipline of Lent reminds me to return again, accepting merciful forgiveness and finding grace to help me in my time of need.

God is so cool.

For further reading: One last book I will shoot your well is Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace. This is a classic book, very readable, often quite funny, convicting, and heartwarming. Grace is so humbling, and in humble acceptance, there is great freedom.

3 thoughts on “Reflections on Clue #7

  1. Linda says:

    I loved your phrase about “Lent has succeeded if it drives you to the cross.” That helps me remember what this is about. I didn’t enjoy my lenten prayer book this year. I feel like I didn’t get much out of my fasting. My failure is that I feel like I didn’t grow closer to God through Lent this year. I grew closer to the 2 beautiful people who were part of the in-person KAL, and I grew closer to my mom as the golf season got underway, and I grew closer to Rebecca through all our knitting discussions/challenges. But I had serious heart break with another daughter and a friend, and over-all Lent has left just……tired/uninspired. I feel like the people in my life have been MAJOR GIFTS to me while I’ve been nothing special. I am very humbled. If that was my lesson, I accept it. I will joyfully worship Jesus this weekend in that humility….which sounds kinda proud and stupid…..but I trust you get the point.

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  2. noel says:

    Ha! Maybe I did say to take up smoking…can’t remember, sounds like something I’d say though.
    Josef Pieper among others just say that abstinence (and its twin, engagement) do a couple of different things in Lent, I think one is to prepare us for putting on our new selves, hidden in Christ, so taking off the rest (with the help of the Holy Spirit) during our sojourn here as we are being conformed to His image. He, through one of my old mentors also said, “well, sometimes fasting is just about knowing that you have said ‘no’ to one thing and that gives encouragement that well…you can probably give that ‘no’ to other things, like life-destroying things.” And I always like to think of it that way. I, for my part, gave nothing up this Lent, and didn’t really engage anything, only now that I think about it, I think the Holy Spirit had Her way with me anyway and I accidentally engaged some healthy behaviors. I hope you took some joy in being fecund in your spreadsheets and your archiving of blog posts 🙂 I’m glad you found yourself before our Triune God, as you say, that’s all that really matters after all! Blessings over the rest of your Holy Week and may Easter arise the sweeter and the fluffier for ya!

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  3. Bina says:

    As a teacher, I don’t see your need to keep your hands moving as a problem. It just means that, at least to some extent, you’re a kinesthetic learner. It’s a good thing, not a bad one. Remember: in the early universities, students would card and spin during class. We humans aren’t the kind of creations to sit still for long periods of time–God didn’t make us that way, though that’s how our society has developed lately. He made us to be doing things (hunting, gathering, farming, creating something all the time, running after children, etc.), and so one of your gifts is knitting.

    You are blessed in that you have found one of the gifts God has given you. I’m not sure He’d want you to give it up again. That would be like a physicist giving up calculus for Lent or a builder giving up blueprints or concrete for Lent. You have learned something amazing and wonderful about yourself–embrace it! 🙂

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