Slow to roll as always, I started praying on the second day of Lent about what my Lenten sacrifices were going to be this year. I had already decided to give up speeding (the best way for a New Jerseyan to grow in virtue), and to be intentional about praying more. Yet I found myself looking at these two goals and asking, “God, is this enough?”
In a way that He doesn’t often do, the Lord spoke clearly to me in an immediate response and said, “It is not a matter of if what you do is enough. It’s primarily about your disposition of heart. This Lent explore what it means to be loved by Me. That’s primarily what this season is about: My love for humanity and for you specifically. My love shown in mercy and through suffering. Oh how I love you! And oh how I desire you to know that! My child, My daughter, My heart.”
God’s words cut to my heart and made me realize that so often I fall into the mindset of asking “Am I doing enough?”, “What more can I do?”, and “Am I doing things correctly?” These can be helpful evaluation questions, but not when they’re coming at the expense of knowing the Father’s love like mine were. I’ve been asking myself these questions with the intention of learning how to perform better in order to be worthy of God’s love, but that’s not how His love operates. As my boss said recently, “the purpose of doing good and seeking to improve isn’t so that we can earn God’s love, it’s that we can receive God’s love.” Although I know how to be a good Christian, I don’t know how to let the Lord love me. And even though I know objectively in my mind that God loves me, I don’t fully know it in my heart.
Lent is such an easy time to fall into this line of thought. It’s easy to make it all about myself, and to believe the lie that “I need to earn God’s love.” It’s difficult because the nature of this season invites us to do x, y, and z in preparation for the glory of Easter, but how do we make God the focus and not ourselves?
What I’m coming to realize for the first time in my 25 years of life is that Lent is exactly the opposite of that. Lent is a season entirely dedicated to God’s love for us. It’s a season entirely about the greatest act of love this world has ever and will ever know: Jesus coming to die on the cross in order to save me, and you, and everyone.
So this Lent I’m not focusing on my sacrifices, I’m focusing on the Father’s love. I’m not giving up sweets, but am giving up being a punk who doesn’t let the Lord love her. I’m not obsessing over the proper steps to being a good Christian, but I am making steps to knowing Jesus’ redeeming love.
And what a joy it is!
Hannah Quense was born and raised in New Jersey and has the sass to prove it. She currently lives in Minnesota working for Saint Paul's Outreach (SPO) at their National Headquarters, which earned her the nickname "HQ at HQ." Hannah's secret passions include writing poetry and a type of dance called krump.