By Joel A. Hess –
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
– Ash Wednesday, T. S. Eliot
So we begin the Lenten journey once again. It is a journey, so we like to say, because we like to move and progress, set mile markers and goal posts. We’re busy little bureaucrats of sin. We can’t sit still. We like to think we are going somewhere. We aren’t happy unless we improve something. Counting, measuring, planning, fixing.
Surely this can’t be it. Surely I am not the Christian God intends me to be. So ordinary. So stuck in domestic habits. So mediocre in faith. So bourgeois in my doubts and sinning. So boring for someone who believes in the resurrection.
So maybe new habits will transfigure me. A 40-day weight loss plan sits before me. A new, slimmer, nicer, kinder, sinless-er me awaits on Easter—before and after. I’m an 8 p.m. sitcom with canned laughter.
“Repent!” the preacher cries. The challenge goes out to Christendom. Repent. Return. Renew. Resuscitate. Regurgitate.
I will start out strong. I will read the whole bible. I will do my best. I will fast and pray. But somewhere along the path, I will lose my way. I will lose my mind. I will lose my faith.
I’ll only go half way.
I need to repent of my half-&#$ repenting. Like a dog chasing after a stick distracted by a squirrel, my mind and heart so easily slip down rabbit holes, snake holes. Even while I pray with all my might, squeezing my eyes tight, vowing to never do “that” again, I plot to do it again and again.
I have halfhearted faith: one hand behind my back, fingers crossed. O Lord, “I believe in you. Help my unbelief.”
If I could do it all over again, I would do it all over again. Fat Tuesday should be called Ground Hog day. Here I am again. But this time I’ll get Lent right. This time I’ll fall on my knees, better, on my face. I will go all the way! Or not.
O wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Will my repentance deserve a glance from the God of grace? Will my refrain return His face? How could it? It’s always half-
Saves. Not repentance. Jesus forgives my halfhearted sorrow, my half life love, my haphazard
Repentance isn’t for God. It’s for me. It isn’t a means to an end. It’s me at the end,
empty and helpless, only to hear a once dead man’s voice say, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
This Lent, don’t focus on how well you are repenting, praying, or fasting. Focus on Christ and how well He is saving. He will take care of the rest.
Lent is not about the journey. It’s about the destination. The destination has already come and picked your halfhearted repentance up from the ground. He takes you with Him. He did Lent for you, in the wilderness, in the garden, on the cross and in the grave.