I was thinking about Lent yesterday. When I was growing up it always seemed such a dismal prospect. Who looked forward to giving things up and trying to be “good.” It appeared to be connected to a stern and distant God, and to guilt for never being able to actually pull off my best intentions. If I did something well perhaps I earned His love…if not, that giant book came out with another check by my name! What an unpleasant concept of God. But sadly, it’s one that is held by so many. We don’t have to look far, often in our own families, to see the many who have walked away from what they believe this God and His religion to be. And I guess Ghandi had a really true word for us Christians. He said, “I do not reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Him.”
Wow. So what do Lent and Ghandi have to do with each other? Nobody could have ever accused Ghandi of being a part time participant in his life. He was an activist about peace and love in the face of violence. Easy to say. Talk is cheap. But Ghandi gained respect from so many because he really lived his words. And this Lent, rather than giving something up, although that’s always a good way to see how great we are at rationalizing(!), maybe the focus could be on leaning in. Let me explain. Rules never were a motivator for me to change. As a matter of fact, that made me want to run the other way. But my life was profoundly changed when I was 17 because of an ENCOUNTER. Before that I had known about God. One day I had an experience with Him that changed everything. I did not meet the stern, distant judge whom I had expected. I met absolute and total LOVE, and in an instant I knew who I was in Him. Nothing about me had changed. I didn’t suddenly become learned or holy. But everything was new. And He loved me in my mess!
It was if I had been given new eyes to see. Like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:51, he knew what he wanted. He knew what he needed. He was blind. He wanted to see and would not be quiet until he had Jesus’s attention and he told him so! Jesus healed him. But it didn’t stop there. Bartimaeus knew he WAS the miracle…and he knew he had to DO something with what he saw.
Maybe the first question to ask ourselves is what we want God to do for us. Have we forgotten to expect that He wants to do something in our lives? Are we disappointed? Angry? Is there a place we feel like He didn’t show up? Or are we just lazy when it comes to our growth and things are going well enough so we’ve forgotten that we need Him….What do I want Him to do for me? Lord, I want to see. I really do. I want to see through Your eyes and I want to love with Your heart. I know how incredibly blessed I am. I want to DO something with what I see.
And here’s the thing. Everyday life gives us ample opportunities to do something with what we see. Just do the next right thing. Make the phone call, write the letter, bring the meal, LISTEN to the person next to you, make eye contact. Put the phone down…You know the drill. We need to lean in, lean into our lives. That’s it. Let’s ask for eyes to see HIM as He really is, and not through all of our goofy lenses. Then let’s ask for new eyes to see…through His eyes. And let’s ask for more love, His love. And the courage and grace to do the next right thing in front of us. It will be there, because He is there…in every joy, every struggle, every hope, tear and fear of His people. Isn’t that what we’re remembering in every Lent? He put skin on and came and climbed into our messes. It didn’t scare Him then, and it doesn’t scare Him now. He wants to give us everything we need so we can be who Ghandi called us to be…the real thing. People who love. People who serve. People who do the next right thing, again and again and again. And people who show up to life anyway the cards are dealt. We all know situations and people that need hope and laughter and a little bit of light. We can do this. WE are His answer to some of those prayers prayed today. What a privilege. This Lent, let’s lean into to the One who IS the light. And ask for a bit of that light to shine through us. He’s been waiting for us to ask.