Failing Lent

Church seasons are my jam. I love how struggling through Lent prepares me to celebrate Easter and engaging in Advent readies my heart for the miracle of Christmas. But this year I’ve failed. 

I started Lent with grand dreams to write a letter a day. I’m talking a hand-written, thoughtful, prayerful, encouraging note from yours truly. I bought 40 cards, made a list of 40 people, and began imagining those little rays of happiness flying into mailboxes all around the world. 

That commitment lasted about a week. 

Slowly writing a card got replaced with an ever-expanding to-do list that made even a 10 minute pause seem impossible. And often, I just forgot. Making a new habit was difficult, and soon a whole week had gone by without a card. Then a second week. My shiny, pretty cards mocked me, and I had a vague sense of guilt for not following through on my plan.

It has been a busy season. (I loathe that word, “busy,” especially the way it’s worn like a badge of honor for overcommitted folks with poor boundaries… especially when that person is me.) Some unexpected roadblocks came my way that needed my attention, and my good intentions were crushed under my feet as I rushed off to fix problems and put out fires. I’m surely not the only one. 

That’s why I was so relieved when I sat down to read my daily devotional toward the end of Lent and found this thoughtful reflection by Jan Kwiatkowski: 

“Most likely you started Lent with specific intentions and desires and then found yourself having to adjust, perhaps letting go of some of your original intentions, or maybe you realized that you took on more than was possible this season… I don’t think it matters to Jesus what any of us did or did not accomplish… we never 100% get any spiritual practice right… Trust that compassion and love surround you waking and sleeping, no matter what is done and left undone.”

Whew! I’m so grateful for this reminder that God is not a harsh taskmaster who refuses to grade along a curve. Instead, we serve a God who knows all of our human weaknesses and our most intimate struggles and flaws… and still calls us “good.” 

We are made in God’s image.
We are God’s beloved children.
We are God’s good creation.

Even when we fail.
Even when we are unloving.
Even when we don’t look good.

The Bible is full of stories of God’s lovable failures and imperfect followers. Whenever I need to remember that, I flip to the Psalms. They remind me that this following-God-life is not about performance or perfection and that it’s okay when my ridiculous humanity far outweighs my hopes for holiness.

One of my favorite passages comes from Psalm 73:

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.

(Ugh, same.)

When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

(Oh I know that feeling.)

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.

(I’m clinging to that promise.)

My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever. 

(Yes! Amen. Thank you, Lord.)

– Psalm 73:1-2, 21-24, 26 

My Lenten failures reminded me of how utterly dependent I am on God and how very grateful I am for grace. And if that’s the case, can they really be considered failures?

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Alyson Rockhold

Alyson Rockhold was a missionary in Tanzania, Haiti, and Zambia. Now she works in communications at Global Water Center. You can follow her on Instagram @alysonrockhold She and her husband live in Lafayette, CO.

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