This year for the season of Lent, I have taken on a spiritual discipline that Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity call “Adoration.” It basically means taking one hour out of every day to spend time in the presence of God. When I volunteered with the Sisters of Charity in Kolkata, India last year, I practiced Adoration alongside the Sisters each day at 5pm. The practice refreshed me, and brought me into a closer walk with Jesus, so I hoped it could do the same for me during Lent this year.
I do very well with routines and disciplines, so even though an hour seemed like a lot at first, I quickly got into the groove. I lined up for myself a strict regimen of passages to read, prayers to say, and things to meditate on; and for the first two weeks, I didn’t miss a beat. I did all the right things to help me stay focused on the purpose of Lent: realizing my brokenness before God and my need for His grace.
But somehow, this time around, the practice of Adoration wasn’t actually making me feel more in-step with Jesus. Yes, I technically thought about all the right ‘Lent-ish’ things for an hour each day, but I didn’t feel like I was communing with Christ. It felt like a hollow practice — just sixty minutes I had to get through every day.
And then, a wonderful thing happened: I messed up. I had a long day at work, a stressful evening, and at 9pm realized that I hadn’t done my hour of Adoration yet. I was frustrated and tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour reading and praying and meditating about why I’m a sinner in need of God. So, I flung myself on the couch and just sat for a while. I didn’t open my Bible or my prayer book. I didn’t have anything in me to offer to God at that point. And do you know what? For the first time in a long time, I realized that not having anything to offer is exactly the point. I just sat on that couch for an hour, not saying or thinking much, just letting myself be at Jesus’ feet. I felt His love for me; love offered freely, because I didn’t have anything to give in return.
You see, I thought Lent was about doing all the right things — about strict practices and disciplines, and about not letting yourself slide. But that moment of failure showed me that there’s no better way to understand our need for God than to actually let ourselves need Him. I try so hard to get it right, when sometimes what I need is to let myself realize that I just can’t. I mess up all the time. The amazing thing is that God loves me anyway.
So, you’re in good company if you’ve failed to perfectly execute your Lent commitments this season. I’m right along with you, and thankfully, so is Jesus. I hope you can join me in learning that Lent is for sinners. We’re not going to get it right, and maybe we’re not even supposed to. I think all we can do is try our best, all the while looking to Jesus to fill in the gaps and love us in our weakness. Praise God for the hope we have to look forward to; Easter is coming!