Matt: 16:24-25: Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
If you are anything like me, then you are reaching that point where you a ready for all of this Lent nonsense to be over so you can start celebrating the resurrection! On top of the Lenten devotional I have been doing with the church, I have one that I am doing every morning with my wife, plus my Lenten discipline of only eating local and/or organic food. In the grand scheme of things they are small sacrifices of time, money, and effort, but they add up and I’m ready to ease up a bit. Lent is hard.
On top of the external things I am doing, there is the internal work. During this season, the scriptures we reflect upon deal largely with self sacrifice and the discipline required to be a follower of Christ. Like the text above, we have constant reminders that the way of Jesus is the way of the cross, the way of dying to self and living for God and others. Lent drops us into the mindset of what a true life of life is all about. Discipleship is hard.
Of course the way of faith is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it! We’re reminded of our faults and shortcomings. Moreover, we’re reminded of our mortality and the fleeting nature of life. We’d rather not look at these things because they destroy our illusions of control and competence. And yet, it is in the midst of the hardships of Lent that we discover our true need for God, our need for grace, and our need for community.
One of the awful byproducts of our culture is the sense that we need to “self sufficient”. We shouldn’t have needs. We should be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We should be able to make our own way. The gospel tells us something different. We are dependent every moment on God and God’s grace. And we need a community of people around us who will hold us up and encourage us through the dark days. Yes, Lent is hard. Discipleship is hard. Both are much harder when we go at them alone.
As our Lenten journey begins to draw to a close, how have you become more aware of your need for God? How have you become more aware of your need for community? You may see those things as weaknesses. Guess what? They are. And it’s our weakness that God’s strength is revealed as well as the strength of our community. Friends, this journey of ours is supposed to be hard, so that we might never lose sight of our need for God nor our need for each other. May we embrace the difficulty and seek comfort in the love of God and neighbor.