Monday, March 27, 2017

Learning from Lenten Failures

Lent, Day 23.

Previously: For Now, Just Live, Go Ahead and Give Up Chocolate for Lent, Homebrewing Salvation, My Easter Burden

Lent is halfway over, and I haven't been very good at keeping a prayer discipline. It's one of the things I said I'd do during this season, and the most generous thing you could say is that it's been hit-and-miss.

I have a devotional book, and I also have a lot of excuses why I haven't read much of it.

Early mornings are my preferred time and even with Daylight Savings my kids have been waking up at the same time. During the day I'm in the office, or visiting, or exercising, or waiting for my son to get out of school, or driving the kids somewhere, or going to an evening meeting.

Night time then becomes the best case, right? By then I'm more content to pick up a different book or catch up with The Magicians or just talk with my wife for a bit before we both pass out.

So the pastor/spiritual director/guy who wrote a book about the importance of spiritual practice currently has a sub-standard prayer life. It's happened before.

This isn't the first time I've faltered during Lent, either. I could name several instances when I've started strong and then fizzled out, or didn't really start at all.

But I've been keeping with my resolve to give up sweets. I hope I still get points for that.

Any new discipline comes with good intentions. Whether to pray more, to start a workout routine, to keep a diet, to spend more time doing this or less time doing that, we burst into it with a raging fireball of energy that lasts maybe three days, and then the reality of what a slog it'll be to break ourselves into a new habit hits us in the face. Excuses to cheat once become excuses to give up.

I think that there's still something to be learned in times like these. If you decided to give something up only to sneak something a few weeks in, or opted to take on a regular prayer time and then abandon it mid-season, you've still discovered something about yourself.

You've found out how truly dependent on a vice you've become. Or you've learned that you can't take on a new practice only by force of your own willpower. Or you see why we set aside seasons like this to remember how powerless we are in the face of temptation that only God can bring liberation, healing, forgiveness, and transformation.

Failure is always a risk. Sometimes we avoid it, and sometimes we don't. Either way, God teaches us something.