Lent, done imperfectly

I grew up in a religious tradition that didn’t celebrate Lent. I don’t think I even knew what Lent was until well into my teenage years. By that point I was able to appreciate the potential benefits- had I been informed any earlier I probably would have discarded it as another one of those things idol-worshiping Catholics do (oh Lord, forgive the ignorance of my youth). One of the things that the evangelical denominations have prided themselves on is a lack of formal structure in their worship- they are not bound by prayer books, rosaries, or lectionaries that might inhibit the movement of the Holy Spirit. As I became more exposed to the mainline denominations (Anglican, Presbyterian) that use said structure I realized that evangelicals have structure too- visit a local Baptist or Pentecostal church a few Sundays in a row. I can pretty much guarantee you they will do the same thing in the same order every time. It’s not a formal, official liturgy, but it’s liturgy nonetheless.

I digress.

Lent! I admit that I have never “successfully” given up something for Lent. I’ve thought about it, tried to pick something to give up, and come Ash Wednesday I’m smacked in the face with the realization that I’ve made no lofty goals, so I just screw the whole thing. Easter is now 10 days away and yet again, I failed to keep my Lenten plans. Normally this would induce a guilty shame spiral where I beat myself up for never following through or keeping commitments. But this year, I’m somehow totally ok with it. It is what it is. And I’m so thankful to the Lord for bringing me to this place of self acceptance. Lent is a manmade tradition- a beautiful one, a beneficial one- but manmade, nonetheless. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words about working on the Sabbath Day- “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”- in other words, religious tradition is supposed to benefit us, not rule over us. Praise the Lord for that. Legalism is a harsh mistress.

I got up in church last Sunday (at the request of the pastor/my boss) and talked about my “faith story”, or what I grew up calling a “testimony”. In a nutshell, I talked my lifelong struggle with perfectionism. Nothing is ever good enough- I have been consistently disappointed with my appearance, my work, pretty much everything about myself. I’m a notorious comparer- someone always seems to have it better or do it better. And I’m so glad to say I’m seeing God break this pattern in my life, slowly but surely, starting with Lent. Maybe when all is said and done I really did observe Lent- I learned how to let go of something that’s been ruling my life- perfectionism that crushes my spirit, stresses me out, and makes me a critical wife and a cranky mother.

Lord, continue to break the cycle of perfectionism in my life. May I be satisfied with a job done, even if it’s not Pinterest-perfect.

Amen.

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