Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

A good Lent?

on March 25, 2013

20130325-104157.jpgLent has always gone quite smoothly for me.  I stopped giving things up years ago when I realised it wasn’t helping me – in fact it was having the opposite effect.  I’d reach Easter with a sense of achievement, feeling I deserved to return to chocolate, tea, TV or whatever I’d managed to do without for the preceding weeks.  I’m good at giving things up – setting my mind to it and “just doing it”, as my dad’s preferred sportswear brand would encourage – especially for an allotted period of time, but I never achieved any benefit by my Lenten abstinences.  I never saved up the money I’d have spent on treats and donated it to a worthy cause.  I never spent the hour when I’d usually have been glued to Casualty in prayerful reflection over the Bible or another Christian book.  I just had a bit extra money, just a bit more time for seeing my friends or pursuing other activities.  Not quite the intention of those early Christians who instigated the Lenten fast.

So I came up with the idea of taking something up, and most years since then I’ve read, over the course of the Lent period, a book about Easter or the cross.  I’ve found such books as C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross-Centred Life and D.A. Carson’s Scandalous challenging and informative, encouraging and enlightening.  Choosing to do something during Lent, as opposed to refraining from doing something, has the added benefit of reducing spare time, rather than creating more of it, which means that often the less productive activity is pushed out, at least partially (in my case anyway – not everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are the same, so of course everyone should decide for themselves what is most helpful.  And at this point I should probably take the opportunity to say that I don’t think any kind of special Lent behaviour is mandatory or necessary for the same reason – everyone needs to address their own spiritual needs and decide what’s going to benefit them).

This year I chose The Cross of Christ by John Stott, because I hadn’t read it and we already had it at home, which suited our economy drive post-Christmas and an expensive MOT (our car is brilliant, but a bit on the elderly side!).  It seemed a particularly good choice because it contains questions on each chapter which helps the reader consider what’s been said so far.  I set off to read it with gusto, a chapter over two days and the questions on the third day.

But then I got migraines.  And a fluey thing which rendered me incapable of concentrating on a candyfloss novel, let alone a serious theological tome.  And more migraines.  And then the catching up on all the things I hadn’t done while I was ill.  In addition, I’m organising the children’s Good Friday activity at church for the first time without my friend who’s moved to the other side of the country (and, it turns out, hasn’t left nearly enough notes or records about her part of the planning!), and there are other taxing events on the horizon which will need preparation.  And there just isn’t time for everything!

It’s all a question of priorities, of course.  I was ill, but in some ways I used my illness as an excuse to do just the things I wanted to do.  I was busy, but I still found the time to rest in the evenings, flopped on the sofa watching a DVD with Southern Daddy.   It’s not about not reading a particular book, but about not taking the trouble to fulfil the commitment I’d made to read, to learn, to focus.  And I felt quite bad about that.

Then in the past week I’ve read three things which have altered my perspective and lifted my spirits.  The first was part of the passage I was preparing for our Bible study meeting last week: John 21:15-19, in which Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to apologise and be forgiven for the way he denied and disowned Jesus before the crucifixion.  He shows Peter that he can’t be the Rock he was called to be in his own strength, but must follow and depend on Jesus.  How is Peter forgiven? I wrote as a study question, reflecting on how Jesus was preparing to die for Peter’s rejection of him (and ours) just as Peter was in the very act of that rejection.  How does this help us when we feel we’ve let Jesus down or not put him first? I wrote as an application, realising that it was just what I needed to consider.

At the weekend I found this post on Lent by Ann Voskamp.  It’s actually from a couple of years ago, and I was so grateful to stumble upon it quite by accident (I was actually looking for information about Christian Passover celebrations when I came across it).  In it she points out that, whilst our efforts in Lent should be reminding us of the suffering Jesus went through and serving to make us more like him, they also serve to remind us how unlike him and how much we’re in need of a Saviour.

Then, finally (because God knows I need to learn a lesson several times before I get the point!), this update dropped into my inbox this morning from Sasha at Lemonade Makin’ Mama, making the same point!  I love her closing sentiment:

Lamentations 3:21-23 
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

Be encouraged, take time to connect, let the other stuff go, and have a Happy Holy Week, my dear friends!

I intend to take time this week to do all of that.  The Butterfly is taking her turn to be off school today, after being poorly yesterday, so I have extra time at home whilst she sits reading and watching Tom & Jerry.  I can remember the events of the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday and how, actually, a scrappy, busy, forgetful, messy, disappointing Lent is actually a good Lent after all, if we have the right perspective on it.


Thankful for…

These three ways in which I’ve been reminded of the purpose of Lent

That the Butterfly’s illness seems shortlived

That thanks to her illness we’ve been spared having to go out in this dreadful weather!

Helpful friends who can be there when I can’t be in two places at once

New ideas to celebrate Easter



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