My favorite part of this Lent has been the Bible memorization. I’ve not gotten nearly through as much scripture as I’d hoped – I’d hope to memorize all of John 14-17. But I have got chapter 14 almost all the way down. And it’s been really, really good. That passage of scripture is so dense, it’s almost like I can’t pay enough attention to it to get what it’s saying unless I memorize it. It takes that level of attention. It’s that dense, that packed with meaning.
Anyway, one of my most precious memories from this Lent is when my son – who’s being baptized on Easter – asked me why we couldn’t see Jesus. And as I started answering him, I found that I knew exactly what to say. I hardly ever know exactly what to say! But, you know what? Why we can’t see Jesus is exactly what John 14 is about. I’m going, He says, to the Father. But I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. I’m going to send you the Spirit, and He will remind you of everything I’ve told you . . . I would never have had all of that right in my hands, ready to answer my son, if I hadn’t memorized it. The grace of God to me, and to Gamgee.
Pastor Kang was right. Scripture memorization makes it easier for the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us. I experienced that this Lent. It is something I don’t want to give up when Lent is over.
Where Lent Meets Ordinary Time
Have you noticed that, by the way? That your Lenten disciplines tend to spill over into your Ordinary Time life? It seems like every Lent I take on at least one discipline which I totally bomb (this Lent, that would be reading Dante), a few that are good, but that I just don’t get at as deep a level as I eventually ought (food fasting, this Lent), and at least one that I was ready for, that I don’t ever give up again. I always remember my first Lent, when we went vegetarian for the first time. We’ve been eating vegetarian regularly (not exclusively, but as a regular part of our lives) ever since. It was a good that lasted. I think scripture memorization is going to be the one that sticks for me, this year, please God.
I love Lent. I rarely enjoy Lent. But I do love it. It is such a good tool in God’s hands. I always learn, I always grow. I often think I learn more from the places where I fail than the places where I succeed. (I’m thinking hard about why it’s been so hard for me to read the Purgatorio, why I dislike food fasting so heartily . . . no hard conclusions yet, but lots of grass to ruminate.)
Some Conclusions Anyways
I sometimes think the purpose of fasting is to make it clear to us what sinners we really are. Not in a defeating, accusing way (the way the Enemy likes to make it clear to us), but more the way tiredness reveals the two-year-old-ness of two-year-olds. The voice you hear isn’t the diabolical, “well what did you think you were, you scum?” but the fatherly, “you really are tired, aren’t you small one? Come and rest.”
As Lewis pointed out, our good moods often aren’t, as we’d like to suppose, evidence of our virtue, but evidence of our full bellies and our health. Take away food or health or rest and you can see how weak you really are. But fasting, in its orderliness, reveals that to us in a way that we can stand. It doesn’t destroy us because it is intrinsically linked to prayer, and so as soon as our weakness is revealed, there we are in the presence of our Father. And there our weakness isn’t despair, it’s joy, because He is ever ready to supply our lack. Praise God!
Peace of Christ to you,