When I was a kid, I don’t remember much about Lent. I don’t think it was emphasized too much by the churches I attended. I don’t remember giving up anything. One of the most meaningful pre-Easter services, that I remember, however, was a Maundy Thursday Last Supper experience.
Several “Upper Rooms” were set up in the Fellowship area. We waited in line for our chance to go in, as a family, and partake of that Last Supper with Jesus. One empty seat was there to symbolize Judas’ place. Whoever served the last supper took the place of Jesus. I may not remember all of the details, but I do remember the awe of that experience, of feeling like I was intimately acquainted with Christ at his last meal, that I was one of his disciples and there was a real power to that ritual.
As I’ve grown and wandered the country, I have attended many different churches and many denominations. The denomination that resonates most with me is The United Methodist Church. This denomination follows the church calendar, and therefore, observes Lent. Last year, we were encouraged to participate in a Daniel fast, based on how Daniel and his companions ate while captives in Babylon, with no meat, no dairy, no sweeteners or wine. It was basically a vegan diet, and it was more difficult, in some ways, than just not eating at all. But, it was a nice experience nonetheless.
This year, I’ve been pondering how I wanted to observe Lent. One thing that I want to do is fast some, mainly to pray intently for the people of the Ukraine and their tumultuous situation. But, by everything I’ve been reading lately by Christian leaders and authors I respect, I’ve been encouraged to not think of Lent as some sort of second chance at making New Years’ resolutions. It’s a time to grow closer to God and to get rid of the things that stand in the way of that relationship. I have also been convicted that it is a good idea to think about what I need to ADD to my life — things like joy, prayer, courage, forgiveness, etc.
This morning, as I walked my treadmill after having morning devotions, I continued to experience God’s presence and we talked. My reflection led me to realize that God has given me everything I need for life. He has helped me overcome the trials of the past, and is trustworthy enough that I can give him my future. He emphasized that more important for me now than making a lot of plans and trying to improve myself like that, that I should trust him moment by moment — live in the moment so to speak, and relax. Stress doesn’t add anything to my life, but it is my attempt to control the future by trying to work every possibility out in my head ahead of time. That is not only unnecessary, it’s harmful. So, what I have been encouraged to do is just keep in step with the Spirit and let Him lead me, trusting him that he will provide for me.
Another thing we talked about was my pain and sorrow over Amber’s death. I came to the point of telling God that I would like to be healed, but, that I was fine with feeling pain once in awhile, because Amber is so worth it. Loving her in the past, and even now, is worth the pain, and knowing that she is happy and at peace, no longer struggling with her physical limitations and pains, is a chance for me to live like a loving mom still. I can be happy for her, and be at peace knowing that God took her at the appropriate time, and I am willing to feel the pain of separation, knowing that Amber is better off and free of pain. The thing I wanted most in the world for her was that she would be happy, and I longed to shield her from every pain. So, I must accept that she has that now more than ever before.
So, I will still feel pain, but I have peace about the pain.
I don’t know what my future holds, not sure how many days I have left walking this mortal land, but I am sure that I can trust God for what lies up ahead and fully embrace today, this moment is a gift and I plan to use it and cherish it.