It never ceases to amaze me how different my experience of Lent is from year to year. Last year's journey was very definitely about stewardship, discipline and self-control. This year? This year seems to be mostly about grace.
One of the benefits to leading the devotional study our church is doing for Lent is that I am most definitely in God's Word on a daily basis. There is a LOT of Scripture in the daily lectionary we're following - and I'm reading all of it, every day. And the one thing that is becoming clear as I'm reading is the pervasiveness of God's grace. Every single set of readings thus far has pointed me to grace.
I don't know how long I've actually been observing Lent on a yearly basis. It's been a long time. It usually consists of giving something up. And in recent years, I've been pretty hard-core. I've given up coffee, chocolate, bread, ice cream, anything with high fructose corn syrup in it, caffeine, etc. - or (to put it more positively) I've started eating healthier. And I've been strict - oh, so strict! - about sticking to what I've set out for myself.
But this year - I haven't been that hard core about it. All it turns out that I've really given up is coffee, and I actually gave that up before Lent, because as much as I love it, it was a healthier choice to give it up for a season.
I had good intentions when I started - and I have - for the most part - been a lot more healthy in my food choices. But those no-bake cookies just sounded so awesome, and fountain Coke is so good... and yes, on Thursday, I went through the drive-thru on the way home from rehearsal and got a double-cheeseburger.
But I prayed about it before I went, and I believe God said yes.
You see, a double-cheeseburger is WAY more than a double-cheeseburger to me. It is one of the fastest entrances into Presence I know. I realize it sounds silly, but there's a backstory to it, a good one - and I needed it. At the end of a ridiculously long and emotionally trying day, a double-cheeseburger was exactly what I needed. It fed my body and my soul.
Yes, it's Lent. Yes, bread is on my personal no-no list. But it's a man-made tradition, giving things up for Lent, not a biblical mandate, and I'm realizing, even as I joke about flunking Lent, that I probably should have prayed a little more before diving into this season about what God wanted to do in me through it. I should have asked for more specific direction.
But there's grace for that, too - and so much freedom to make a course correction now.
So enough with legalism. This year is about grace, and I am celebrating my freedom to pray daily about what to eat or not to eat in any given situation. I am recognizing that it is completely okay that I don't have the emotional bandwidth to pursue a more disciplined fast right now - that maybe the time I'm putting into leading this study is the only sacrifice God really wanted from me this year. And I am resting in the love and the grace of a God who loves me tremendously, and guides me as graciously as He does.