Friday, March 14

Lent and Surrender

Here is Lent.

Having never been a part of a group of believers that celebrates Lent, this year I picked up a book of readings for Lent and have been working my way through it.  It sits with my Bible, journal and sketchbook, ready for a few moments of thought whenever the day offers.  Different religious traditions, I've learned in my readings, celebrate Lent differently and emphasize different aspects of Lent.
A birthday rainbow from Sean. #fabercastelle #watercolour

While I don't fall into the category that believes self-denial makes me holier or better prepared to come before God, I do fall into the category that sees much of my life as contrary to Christian living and find Lent a perfect time of reflection, prayer and repentance.

As a note of attack, we've all often heard that some Christians are hypocritical and give the faith a bad name.

Let me jump up and wave my arms in the air as a sample of a Christian hypocrite. We're all hypocritical.  It is part of being human.

Cute fellow.

 I know the right thing to do.  I have lofty goals and expectations for myself and continually fail to live them out day to day.  I sure fit well into the category of hypocrite, a person who believes and says one thing but does another.  This reveals my great need for Christ.

Christianity, my friends, is not about performance.  God doesn't hand out goodness and blessings if I pray enough or am kind enough to my family.  It is contrary to how we're wired to think, but it is true.  The moment a preacher/book/blogger tells you that what you pray or how you talk or how you give has power over your life, is the moment they ceased to preach the gospel. 

On facebook, the discussion of feminism recently came up on my page.  I do not consider myself a feminist, which will come as no surprise to many of you, though I've had a (short) career in the professional world, am of the female persuasion and heartily dislike to see anyone treated unfairly because of race or sex.

Stirring up pecan double chocolate brownies for a little at-home, spy thriller on Netflix date night tonight.

My argument was that feminism, even if you peel away the hateful comments of the most noted leaders, discard the suspect racial start to the movement, and forget for a moment about those it hurts -  feminism goes against my Christian faith. 

And this is why: Being a Christ follower means I'm called to lay down my life.  As it applies to me, personally, trying to advance myself I find is contrary to the Christian call to die to self, and is a continual struggle. This dying to self applies to marriage, mothering, feminism, American entitlement, blogging, etc. and is something I struggle with daily.

The beauty of repentance and surrender is that all of life falls into the rhythm of surrendering and being given more in return.

In marriage, when we surrender our wants and wills, our marriages are strengthened.  When all of a sudden this momentary marriage isn't about my happiness or getting ahead in life, my focus shifts from me to - how can I glorify God in this short life? 

I've had the best luck with #overstock for rugs. This new one should be very forgiving with lots if kids.

As women, when we surrender our ideals of beauty and comfort, we're sometimes greeted with the gift of new life.  When I summon up all the back aches and waddles and count hours of labor pains and see the changes brought in my physical body that I've had with our seven, I know surrender brought me gifts more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

In my spiritual walk, surrendering anger and hurt to God has always brought me great peace in its place.  When Sean and I began spending time together seventeen years ago, I had very little to do with my father.  At Sean's insistence (I did it because I liked him and thought he was cute) we'd call my dad to go hiking with us when we went out.  God healed many wounds and I enjoy a good friendship with my Dad today.  When our family went through a time of being lied about and purposefully made to look bad, the hurt was very deep.  That hurt, subsequent surrender and peace never came with the reconciliation that it did with my dad, but I still hold out hope for it someday.

Snow melting, sunshine, and friends to play.

So here we are in Lent and I consider surrender and dying-to-self and all the ways I fail to live up to being a perfect Christian, trophy wife, or model mother and I find it is all okay. My best efforts, I'm told, are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  This doesn't mean we fail to strive to worship with our lives.  When I have right standing with God because of what Christ has done (Romans 3:20-31) and not what I've attempted, when I have His love that compels me to forgive, when I don't need to mother in my own strength or love and forgive of my own means, everything turns out more than alright.


Lucy said...

I am a feminist and a Christian. I think it is perfectly possible to die to self and be a feminist. For me feminism is about violence against women, r**e culture, pay inequality etc, not getting my own back on men or refusing to surrender to God's will. I don't think it is God's will for women as a class to be victimised as we are around the world.

Julian said...

Amen. Me too;).

Me said...

Lucy, perhaps our cultures are slightly different. The great feminist writers of America, Robin Morgan, Valerie Solanas, Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, Sally Gearhart, and Marilyn French, to name a few (and I'm not sure they're all Americans, actually) have said vile things against men and fight for women's rights at the exclusion and hurt of men. Have you heard of the American blogger Matt Walsh? He recently wrote several articles about feminism that are poignant.
I've seen the effects of American feminism first hand. Broken homes, marriages trashed, kids a wreck.
I completely agree with fighting for the rights of women but not at the exclusion of men and boys. One of my sisters brought up the topic of the sex slave trade and how they'd be out of luck if it weren't for feminism. What she failed to mention is that boys are caught up in the sex trade also, totally heartbreaking, or that two of the most popular organizations that I can think of that fight the slave trade were begun by men. My point is, God is not a feminist, he's neither pro-male or pro-female. He's pro-human and I think grasping that is a beautiful thing.

Mrs. Mike and kids said...

Amen! I think you said it very well!

Annie said...

Hi Hannah,
As a Catholic, I just wanted to clarify that self-denial isn't to make us holier, or at least, I'm not holier because I deny myself.

It's that, in part, when I deny myself some comfort, I can either panic or get angry or feel sorry for myself or any other number of things we feel when we don't have our comforts... or I can remember that God is my comfort, He is my crutch. Not food, or make up, or music in the care. It's a means to remember where our bread is actually buttered :)

And besides this, yes it can unite us in Christ's sufferings, inadequate though it is in comparison. Like a child who sweeps the floor poorly in the image of her mother, but tries all the same. Something like that anyway.

Finally, if He can suffer for us, it's ok to tell ourselves that our bodies and needs are not really that important; it's a mortification, and lessening of our ego, in order to made a little more room for God in us.

There's so much misinformation about what we Catholics believe. But maybe you knew all this :)

All best,