Saturday, February 21, 2015

What the City is Teaching Me about Lent

Lent gives us an opportunity to refocus our lives as followers of Christ. It beckons us to once again be intentional about walking with Christ and to continually sacrifice ourselves and our earthly belongings on the alter before Him so that we may know even greater victory through His life.

Traditionally, for many of us, this includes the discipline of being without. We give up something that takes up a lot of our time and our passion, or something that offers us particular comfort. We fast from meat, or chocolate, or Facebook, or television and pour the time and passion gained from going without these things more intentionally into Christ. These can be beneficial sacrifices, and the Spirit can work mightily through these disciplines, but, too often, in our lives of excess and plenty, we relegate these lessons of dependence on and lowliness before Christ to this one season.

Lent isn't just a season, it is an attitude of frailty before our all-powerful King. It is the anticipation of His love and mercy to bring victory to our brokenness. Believers in the city, who know what it means to be be without, understand this in a deep way.

In a Lenten devotional called Journey to the Cross it says that during Lent "We want to shake up our lives significantly enough that when we reach out for our usual comforts and grasp a fistful of air, we are forced to cling to Christ." This describes life in the city for believers. It isn't something they have to do intentionally in the forty days before Easter, it is lived every day.

Life is chaotic in the city. Lives are shaken and comforts stripped away. Yet, it is here that I have seen some of the bravest examples of hands, that would otherwise be "grasping a fistful of air," clinging to beloved Jesus.

Have you ever thanked God just for waking you up? Over and over I have heard believers in the city utter this prayer and it humbles me every time. It comes from a heart of gratitude, humility, and trust. I have watched men and women trust God to make up the difference in their bank account when bills are due and understand deeply that they will surely turn back to alcohol or drugs or broken relationships if not for the saving power of their Messiah.

A Lenten heart realizes it was not awoken by its own power or for its own purposes. It recognizes its own frailty and, yet, boldly and prophetically declares the victory of Christ in all seasons, especially in times of want and need and brokenness. My experiences and friendships in the city these nine years have taught me so much about what it means to have a Lenten heart.

I have seen these Lenten hearts at work in the city -- grandmas raising their precious grandbabies on little energy and less money, friends wrapping loving arms around the mother of a child lost to violence, neighbors sharing a sparse pantry with a person in need, brothers declaring victory over addiction to a new believer -- they are emptied of self and worldly comforts, but full of trust in and anticipation for our victorious King.

May all of our hearts this season be awakened to this truth.

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