Weekly Lifelines 3/25/2021

It’s confession time.

Deep breath; here we go. I totally failed at sticking to my Lenten discipline. When Lent began, I had every intention of participating in the Big Lenten Prayer Tent. It was only five minutes of special prayer time—how hard could that be? Judging by the first week or so, not hard at all! But it wasn’t long before my good intentions faltered, then slipped beneath the waves of life and work and family.

This doesn’t feel great. I take pride is accomplishing what I set out to do. And it’s especially embarrassing that this is an area where I ought to be pretty solid. I mean,if you can’t count on a priest to pray for five minutes a day. . .

No one is forcing me to write about this. No one would even know if I didn’t bring it up. So why mention it at all?

It’s because, in this instance, I think failure and confession might serve better than success. Not because failing to pray is good, but because my fizzled attempt forces me away from self-reliance and back toward God.

When I succeed, I feel like I’ve earned my reward. A solid performance on my Lenten discipline makes Easter feel so good. Chocolate or beer or dessert never tasted as good as when I’ve successfully abstained for six weeks. Arriving at Easter with six weeks of gold stars puffs me up—I can do hard things in the name of God!And that’s good. It’s good to prove to ourselves that our faith is stronger than daily temptation.

But when I fail, I’m forced to see that I’m not all-powerful. I am a fallible human being—we all are. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things go pear-shaped.Life gets in the way. A global pandemic disrupts. But God is always there, no matter what.

The cool thing about Lenten discipline is that when you put your heart into it, when you jump in with both feet, either success or failure will get you to the same place:God’s abundant mercy.

Lent’s not quite over yet, so I’m going to get back on the horse that bucked me. Or,more correctly, the horse that I adopted then neglected. I won’t try to make up all the weeks I missed. Were that even possible, it’s not what this is about. We undertake this practice of discipline, not to earn something we didn’t already have,but to help us find God’s free gift of unrivaled forgiveness and abundant love.

Yours in Christ,

Justin

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