Lent starts tomorrow. I have never observed Lent. Growing up pseudo-Baptist-ish in an originally-Mennonite-turned-nondenominational church didn’t lend itself to Lent. Easter, of course. Good Friday, yep. Palm Sunday, sure. But Lent? Well, no. It wasn’t shunned by any means. It just wasn’t part of the conversation.
A few years ago, it started peeking out. Like God masterfully orchestrating the best poker play He’s done on me in a while, the topic of Lent has become more prevalent as each year passed. One year, asking a Lutheran why the Ash on Ash Wednesday. Last year, I asked a semi-practicing Catholic about her take on Lent. Because she shares my cynical-yet-earnest humor, I knew I could ask her bluntly: “Come on, does giving up coffee really compare to crucifixion? Really?” She laughed (I knew she would), and she explained that some felt that way. But really it was about when your thoughts went to the thing you gave up, you instead turned those thoughts to God or serving others or something spiritual. It was the mindfulness that she gained from Lent. It wasn’t about sharing Christ’s suffering; it was about recognizing Him more.
Well played, God. I’m a sucker for the mindfulness card. And this year, as the pseudo-Baptist-non-Mennonite-nondenominational whatever I am, I had no idea Lent was coming. It showed up in my Facebook feed like the surprise wedding of that cousin you forgot you friended four years ago. And it showed up on blogs that are neither Catholic nor Lutheran…on a day when I needed God more–or rather, realized I needed Him more.
So this year, I’m giving up something for Lent. I am giving up worry. Seems a little strange since the typical Lent denial-to-self is traditionally something you enjoy. And I can’t say I enjoy the worry. But I can say I rely on it…I rely on something that isn’t supposed to even be part of my day as a follower of Christ. I rely on worry as confirmation that I am doing something important. I rely on worry to make sure I did all those things I said I would do. I rely on worry to prepare for meetings, conversations, and work in general. Somewhere along the way, it became the emotion connected to all of my work…bleeding into my friendships…tickling at the edge of my writing.
Worry whispers the lie that I can control this. Worry taints the eyesight to see the worst possible outcome most prominently. And worry literally kills–over time, I have been diagnosed with a number of weird stress-related conditions. And as God has taught me how to better handle stress, the physical ones have resolved.
It’s time to heal the mind. It’s time to get the pattern of worry out and insert instead the pattern of prayer. If I am to accomplish not worrying (worrying about not worrying anyone?) I have to let stuff go, I have to go to Jesus, and I have to be willing to live in the uncomfortable vulnerability of lacking control. Giving up worry is both a sacrifice of giving up an ingrained pattern I have used to justify myself, and freeing in that I look forward to the day when I am no longer trying to justify myself.
And that, my friends, is the entire point of Easter in the first place.
God slow-played me out of stress. He healed my physical body from its impacts. Now He’s set to free my heart and mind. Well played, God, well played.