I am doing as little as I possibly can this Lent.
Let me explain.
You see, I am a bit of an over achiever. A perfectionist. A “beater” as my five-year-old niece would describe herself when it came to competition. I don’t like to agree to do things unless I can do them BIG and RIGHT. And when it comes to God and my relationship with Him, it is no different. And what better season than Lent to pull out all the stops and “go big or go home?”
And we should do big things for God, right?
Yes. Yes we should. But here is the catch for anyone out there who might be a little bit like me. Big things for God can slide down the slippery slope of big things for self. When I focus on the amount of extra prayer I am adding to my day, prayer becomes another item on my to-do list. When I focus on the amount of fasting I take on, sacrifice becomes about what I am doing, not who I am doing it for. And when I focus on the amount of almsgiving I am doing, the act of my giving turns from a movement of the heart into a calculated cost.
I do this a lot. I set the bar so high with really good intentions … because I love Jesus. And I want Him to know it. But here is the thing. He already knows it. And doing things big means nothing if they are not done for the right reason. And doing things always right for God is a recipe for failure, because we are sinners, and we are going to stumble. Even during, especially during, this forty-day journey in the wilderness. And on Easter morning, God is not looking for me to show Him “big and right.” He is not asking to see my long list of Lenten accomplishments, checking for the amount of good deeds I have crossed off. He is only going to be looking at my heart. He will be looking to see if it is whole.
I found it interesting that Ash Wednesday fell on Saint Valentines Day this year, because while it made the whole chocolate-and-red-wine thing a bit confusing, it also made so much sense. What better way to begin this journey than with the big, puffy, red-heart reminder? The heart has been an image I have not been able to get out of my mind for a few days now. The heart of Jesus, the heart of Mary, my own wounded heart. I keep seeing it. And so I am taking this as something God is asking me to pay attention to. The state of my heart. And looking back on Easters past, I have to be honest … I am questioning the true condition of my heart. Was I worthy of the celebration? Really worthy? I am not sure.
Long lists of prayers, forty days of no chips and salsa and coffee, and bags of clothes donated will not transform my heart. I’ll be thinner with less to wear and a hideous headache, but transformed? Probably not. Not if I approach it with my “beater” attitude. But simplifying my life; sitting quietly before the Lord without saying a word each morning, saying “no” to myself once a day as I tune into God’s gentle whisper, giving out of real love to someone in need without patting myself on the back. These seemingly small things, done in secret, are the very things necessary for true heart transformation. And that is my goal. That is my “go big or go home” this Lent. I want a whole heart.
We all have some sort of sickness of the heart that needs healing. I know that I do. And so this Lent, maybe you will want to join me in doing less things with greater intention; paying attention to what your heart truly needs, so that you can present it pure, and clean on that glorious Easter morning. So that when we return to our risen Lord, we are worthy of the celebration because our wounded hearts are at long last healed and whole.
Copyright 2018 Laura Mary Phelps