When Lent is Getting You Down...

When Lent is Getting You Down...

Oh Lent.

A season of renewal, repentance, forgiveness, and dying to self. A beautiful season of growing closer to God. Learning how to carry our crosses and realize that if we die to self we shall live in Christ. To give up being slaves to fear, saying to God “Thy Will be done.”

But honestly, I can’t wait for it to be over.

It is a tradition to give something up for Lent, usually a type of food or a bad habit. Sometimes it’s a giving up of time and your schedule to set time aside for prayer or exercise. And it’s so HARD. Not being able to eat what I want, do what I want. It’s easy for Lent to feel constricting rather than freeing.

Like many of you, I lead a full life that sometimes overwhelms and exhausts me. Commitments, responsibilities, relationships, social lives, school, work. All of these things are good, but so often I feel like my life is driven by a fear of not getting it done. It’s lived out in a frenzy of people-pleasing and identity-proving through my accomplishments.

Gotta move, gotta go, gotta get attention, gotta get it done. It’s hard to put into words, but the grind leaves me empty, and craving distraction and validation from others and social media. It leaves me a slave to escapism and my empty heart.

Fear constricts. Life constricts. And I’m exhausted. I’ve spent weeks of the edge of tears and I can’t pinpoint why.

This Lent, the Lord has shown me why. He’s been calling me towards the beauty of intentional living. By paying attention rather than getting attention, by connecting and being truly present to the task at hand and the people around me, by getting off my phone.

He’s showing me how to use my time intentionally by fully immersing myself in human connection in conversations, but then to use the time set aside for work to work hard and well and not procrastinate. To purposefully set aside time for family and relationships and exercising and making good food.

What I easily forget is setting time aside to rest out proactively, rather than collapsing into it in exhaustion or escapism or procrastination. The difference there is huge, because the first is rest with a peaceful mind.

This is why I’m on a social media fast this Lent and making time to sit down with Jesus every day. I’ve let my life become driven by fear and distraction and restlessness and I’m over it. I long for the peaceful discipline of intentionality. It is the light burden, the narrow way.

Our culture hates it. It boasts distraction and escapism and numbness and boredom under the facade of “convenient.” We are taught to want connection without embracing the reality of relationship, which is difficult and vulnerable, but exactly what we want.

Admittedly, this Lent has been a challenge. I have probably gone back on these resolutions 5 times today as I’m writing this. I’m so given to distraction. I get so down on myself for that weakness. But I’ve learned something about God’s mercy.

We are imperfect, and our human nature will incline us to fall. But why then, does it seem like God expects so much of us? To be perfect as He is perfect when that is inherently impossible? How we are striving for an ideal we can never reach?

I’m learning that his power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) That the more cracks we have, the more we need Him. The more that His Grace has room to fill us if we let Him. I’m learning that God and His Love are encircling me, around, behind, before me. (Psalm 139:5) That NOTHING can separate me from His love, not death, not life, not our mistakes, nothing. (Romans 8:38-39)  I’m learning the value of unconditional love. That He arranges the seasons of my life so I may search after Him and find Him, even though He is never far from me (Acts 17:27).  I’m learning that life is messy. That this rising, falling, finding mercy, and feeling deeply and questioning incessantly are a necessary part of this grand symphony that makes up life walked with Jesus. A full life. A beautiful life.

This Lent, I challenge you, along with myself, to keep starting over. To rejoice, knowing that in your shortcomings you are encircled by God’s love. I challenge you to live the radical life of intentional living. To choose strength and joy. To be life-enthusiasts and lights in the darkness. To let yourself be loved and be present to those around you who are fighting hard battles of their own. To wait in joyful hope for spring to come again, with our Savior’s Resurrection.

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Julia Amting is currently a senior in high school living in the beautiful state of Michigan. She loves metaphors, coffee shops, and writing and has put all those together by starting her own blog, The Living Tabernacle. (check it out here!) Her blog and ministry is all about encouraging and empowering women in all stages of life, describing how we were created to love and serve as beautiful and infinitely valuable vessels of Christ.

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