hiking downhill three people
“No other religion dares to take me down to the new beginning.
Hence Lent is not a … long brooding over sin. Lent is a journey that could be called an upward descent, but I prefer to call it a downward ascent. It ends before the cross, where we stand in the white light of a new beginning.”
—Edna Hong, Bread And Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

I had no ashen cross on my forehead when it all went dark. But I had been thinking about “what to give up” for Lent.

I’d slogged home with my son through an ice storm, and we’d just finished our taco salads. Then I retired to the bedroom for Zoom meeting with some writer friends when, halfway through, my little square went black. At 7:34 on Ash Wednesday night the power went out.

We have had prolonged power outages before, but not in the dead of winter. This time I did more reflecting on my mortality. Thinking on our mortality is a good thing and lenten thing to do. The chill of winter and the smell of burning hair made it easy that night.

Because that burning hair was my hair.

Clearly I needed more practice at reading by candlelight. Because as I knelt at my bed for a short reading, there was singeing. Singe, that rhymes with binge.

I mean I smelled my mortality that night.

Don’t Buy the Lie

Finitude, I think, is closely related to mortality. We creatures are both subject to death and bound by time.

I am reminded of my certain return “to dust” most days. But I feel my limits just about every waking hour. Which leads me downward, to the lie.

Because I feel my limits so acutely, and too often I don’t like how they feel, I buy the lie that I don’t have time to do everything I’m supposed to do. And that makes me work harder and longer at doing the things I think I’m supposed to do.

Believe the Truth

The truth is that I have enough time to do everything God wants me to do.

Our Lord himself accepted his limits during his time on earth. He wasn’t friends with everyone. Jesus did not have dinner with everyone. He didn’t walk and talk with everyone, or heal everyone. But he did do every single thing the Father wanted him to do.

I glorified you on earth. I have finished the work you have given me to do.

Jesus, in John 17:4 (NKJV)

We have enough time in each day to do all things God has for us to do.

Isn’t that freeing?

But that doesn’t mean we will have time to do all that we want to do. There are so many blog posts and Bible studies and Instagram reels that I want to write. There are so many friends I’d like to know better, and so many acquaintances I would love to befriend. Two dozen beautiful books tower beside my bed.

Every single night there are unchecked tasks on my to-do list. None of that is intrinsically bad. It’s human. But what I do when I fail to accomplish all I want can be ugly. It is sin when I neglect or resent the family I have or ignore real people who talk and text and when I grow angsty and impatient. It is sin.

So teach us Lord, to number our days. Give me discerning love, to know what is best. Holy Spirit, would you help me put to death the misdeeds of my flesh? Would you please come down with me to the depths of myself?

What exact does that look like for me this Lent? What is my chosen fast?

My Chosen Fast This Lent

Three years ago I did a 40-day sugar fast. In this post I explained why. Reason number three was to gain mastery of the things that would dominate me. As in, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

I get an almost insatiable urge to create the next *amazing* post and stay up ungodly late to see it through. In other words, to feed me. I have been mastered by Facebook and Instagram. Social media has me for lunch.

So this season, between from dust and to dust, I choose to embrace my limits. It is my chosen fast.

I choose to die to the vain things that charm me most. Or at least try to suffocate one or two of them. So for these 40 days of Lent, I choose to set aside content creation and intoxicating social media apps by 9:30 p.m. every night and to take a full 24-hour, screen-less Sabbath rest.

This chosen fast is a small way to show I trust that God doesn’t need my clever content to make this corner of the world run right, and that I don’t need highs of likes and loves to flourish. Mine is a chosen fast to remind myself that I am not all that.

I need this fast. Because when I go into the depths of myself, I find how shallow I am. I find an Esau who prefers the right-here, right-now tasty stew of social media buzz to loving real folks and hearing Christ’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Which reminds me of the Servant King, whose face I intend to seek on this 40-day downward ascent.

An Invitation: See How Jesus Serves You

Pastor and Author David Platt made a comment on Matthew 20:28 —”even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”—that shocked me. I’m still pondering, and reeling.

But I share it with you now in closing.

Every time Jesus calls us to do something, it is his way of telling us how he wants to serve us. 

–David Platt, Exalting Jesus in Matthew

When Jesus calls us to count trials as joy, is it so that he can serve us by giving us his joy? When he calls us to forgive those who hurt us, is it so that he can serve us with his love? And when he calls me to lay aside my phone is it so that he can serve me with more of his presence?

Is Jesus calling you to do something, to give something up for his sake—so he can serve you in a new way, this Lent?

Maybe we can compare notes on our downward ascent.

It’s a journey of repentance of deeds of darkness that ends in the white light at the empty cross of Christ.

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:12-14 (ESV)

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  1. This post is very relatable for me; it gets ugly when I’m not happy with myself too, and it’s sin. If I’m honest, this is most often the sin I end up needing to repent of to my husband.

    I heard someone talk about the fact that there is enough time in a day to do all that God wants us to do; it is so freeing, and reminds me of our reliance on the Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment to know what exactly we ought to spend our time on.

    Thanks for sharing, friend!

    1. Thank you, friend. Our husbands could surely compare notes! Discontentment. Yes. So I return to Psalm 131, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.” This is the chosen fast, to still my soul.

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