This is my first time writing on Daniel’s blog… which is actually rather intimidating! I was honored that Daniel wanted to include me as one of the contributors, but this group of men are on an advanced, doctoral level. I’m more on the preschool level. As the sole female, I hate to do that disservice to other women. I would prefer for our sole representative to be able to show up these men academically and theologically (in the nicest Christian-ly way of course) but for any of you women reading this, don’t get your hopes up with me. However, I am glad and thankful to be able to occasionally share my thoughts on here and I hope at least someone will be able to identify with them.
Daniel and I have a five year old son and a two year old daughter. The other day I was watching an animated movie with them called The Jesus Movie. Our son enthusiastically picked it out from the church library. I cringed inwardly at his selection – doesn’t a cartoon movie with such a “creative” title, just scream Christian cheesiness?! Thankfully, it was actually much better and more entertaining than I was expecting for a cartoon version of Jesus’ life.
As I was watching (I’ll admit–not very attentively), it came to the story of the feeding of the 5,000. I've heard that story countless times, and typically my focus is on the miracle of Jesus turning a small amount of food into enough to satisfy the hunger of a huge crowd with many baskets leftover. Wow! That should certainly capture our attention. However, this time something different stood out to me. My focus was on the small cartoon-boy who handed over his lunch. Jesus looked at him with eyes of compassion and said “Thank you for your offering.”
At first, I wasn't quite sure why that captured me and stayed in my thoughts. This young boy gave what he could even when it didn’t make sense or even seem like a reasonable solution to the problem at hand. How often have I looked at whatever it is that I have at the time (material possessions, money, time, knowledge, assistance, etc.) and thought it was too insignificant to make a difference, too small that it wasn’t even worth mentioning or, worse, just wanted to hoard it for myself? But this boy just gave what he had. Jesus and the disciples asked for food and he had some, so he gave it. It was that simple. It is a sobering thought to wonder what I have kept for myself that Jesus could have used in an inexplicable way.
While this may not seem to have any connection with Lent, bear with me. In Sunday School last week, Daniel was leading the lesson and he said “hopefully by this point in Lent, we are resolutely denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Him” and the thought in my mind was “at this point in Lent, I’ve done absolutely nothing.” Ouch. This is sadly not uncommon for me. In fact, I can’t think of a single Lenten season where I have given up or added something during those 40+ days. I know myself well enough to know my track record with these kinds of things and that it is not very good (i.e. New Year’s Resolutions). It seems that much worse to break a Lenten commitment, so my thinking has been that it is better not to make one at all than to make one and break it. I find myself playing mind games each year like “maybe I will give up desserts for Lent…but I’m not really committing to that, just thinking about it.” Then that lasts until the end of the next meal when I can’t pass up the cookies the kids are eating and I think, “Whew! I’m sure glad I didn’t say I was going to give those up!” Or, saying that I was going to get up a half hour before my early-rising children each morning to spend time with God…which lasted three days and then I was glad I hadn’t “committed” to that practice since I broke it within the first week.
I was explaining this to Daniel and saying that maybe I should just do something small because wouldn’t small be better than nothing? I was telling him how I had been more mindful to pray the Lord’s Prayer during Lent this year and how I have enjoyed starting and ending the day with it. He suggested that could be my Lenten practice. A feeling of fear shot through me as I quickly blurted out “No way! That might jinx me” (meaning if I committed to the practice, I was sure to break it). He laughed and said, “there’s no jinx in the Kingdom of God.” So, apparently I have some superstitions when it comes to Lenten practices.
Like the young boy in the story of the Feeding of the 5,000, I do have a small offering. We are about to enter into the holiest of all weeks. I have ten days left until Easter. How can these days make me more attentive to the presence of God in my everyday life? Because isn’t that what Lenten practices are really about? They are not New Year’s resolutions or dieting schemes. They are practices that should make us mindful of God who is already very near.
So here is my small offering that I am committing to publicly right now: For the next ten days I will stay off social media (if you see me on Facebook, I have been jinxed), and I will say the Lord’s Prayer as a way of directing my thoughts to God upon awaking and upon going to sleep. These seem ridiculous to me now that I have typed them out. Let me clarify that they are not schemes to earn God’s favor and if I don’t do them, God won’t be upset with me. Even if I mess up along the way, He won’t think less of me. They are just a way to carve out a little more time for Him in an intentional way and hopefully become more open to the work that He is already doing in and around me.
I think of blogs as conversations. Would you be so brave to leave a comment about how your season of Lent has been going? Have you had any particularly meaningful Lenten practices or any ideas for observing Holy Week? Hopefully we can encourage one another!
May the Lord bless you and keep you this week and may your preparations for the celebration of Easter draw you ever closer to the Savior!