My First Inner Failure of Lent

I had a good day today. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I went deep to really connect with the Holy Spirit within. St. Theophan the Recluse used to call it “standing before God with the mind in the heart.” It’s descending from the mind through the heart into the soul where the Holy Spirit lives within. There, I was given these words that I have been praying all day:

Holy Spirit,

Help me to surrender myself to You completely,

Descending from my Mind…

Through my Heart…

and into my Soul.

Imprint Yourself on my Mind that Your thoughts may be my thoughts.

Imprint Yourself on my Heart, that I may desire what You desire.

Imprint Yourself on my Soul because that is Your home.

Amen.

Sounds good, right? Sound impressive and holy. I ended the day by watching television and the season was coming to a climactic end as the good guys stormed the compound of the bad guys and fired more rounds than the D-Day Invasion. Finally, the leader of the bad guys was cornered at gunpoint trying to talk her way out of her inevitable fate. “Just shoot her!” I found myself saying in anxious frustration. (You probably haven’t been watching the same show I’ve been watching. I assure you, she deserved it.) Caught up in the moment, I forgot all about the Holy Spirit’s thoughts of grace where we treat others better than they deserve. Just hours earlier, I invited the Holy Spirit to be enthroned in my life. I surrendered myself to the Spirit’s guidance, to think the Spirit’s thoughts and to desire what God desires. Did I screw that up on the first day? You bet I did.

I’ve been watching movies and TV shows my whole life, but I’ve only been fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit for a few hours. Hollywood has had plenty of time to imprint all kinds of things on me. The world tells a different story than God. The world picks good guys and bad guys and insists on paying out vengeance and retribution. We call it justice. The story is not over until somebody bleeds. The Spirit reminds us that the story began with Jesus bleeding to put an end to our judgement, anger, and self-righteous condemnation.

Just two days after Ash Wednesday and I’ve had my first real inner failure of Lent. It’s OK, though. Lent is all about our failures. When we stumble and struggle it is a clear reminder of how much we need God’s power. We don’t take on spiritual disciplines of prayer and self denial to impress God with our awesomeness. Do we really think we can earn a standing ovation from God by being perfect? These disciplines reveal our weak spots and our unguarded places. They reveal the scripts coded into our thinking by the world around us. We become better informed about our own limitations and reminded of our utter reliance on God. We grow stronger NOT by growing stronger, but by trusting God more. It might sound a bit quaint and corny, but F.A.I.L. stands for “First Attempt In Learning.” It is humbling, but lesson learned.

(If you would like some help learning how to follow Jesus, you can purchase the book that inspires this blog: “5×5 Discipleship: A Field Manual for Following Jesus”. It is available now on Amazon.com. Click here.)

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