There’s this candle that flickers light in the dark of this too-early-morning. My fingers wrap around a mug of hot coffee, a Spotify playlist streams from my iPhone, the blackness of night lessens, and all the while that flame dances. The brighter it gets the shorter the candle grows. It is almost disappearing in front of my eyes. Each morning it is less than it was the day before and I can’t stop thinking about the paradox. The more flame burns the greater the candle decreases. More of one thing always means less of something else.
Lent began last Wednesday. In the middle of a jam-packed week, in a season that has expanded my life to the point of bursting, there’s this quiet and unobtrusive start of a different kind of season. It catches me by surprise as I hustle through the winter – driven by a need to accomplish, to function, deliver. It nudges my overwhelmed soul, the parts of myself that feel inadequate, incompetent, and overcommitted. It wedges its way into the cracks of my life that are spent in tears over my failings and struggles. It beckons me to leave this season marked by frenzy and chaos, defined by having both too much and not nearly enough. It bids me consider something new. A season that intentionally leads to decrease.
You know that moment in The Lord of the Rings when Bilbo is telling Gandalf about his longing to leave the Shire? He describes himself as stretched thin, like butter that’s been scraped over too much bread. That is me. Except I feel like I’ve run completely run out of butter and there’s still an entire loaf of bread in need of buttering. I’m at the end of my resources but there is far more to be done. I thought this was a bad thing, but Lent comes and says that it’s ok. That this overwhelming sense of lack is, in fact, the whole point.
Lent is typically associated with fasting. We give up sugar and social media and carbs and chocolate and coffee (hypothetically, of course) and then we move along with our normal lives, abstaining from indulging in our favorite treat for a few weeks. But this year, as Lent approached I considered a new fast. I’m already at the end of myself, I’m already at a place of feeling depleted and incomplete. Maybe this Lent I will embrace my lack instead of hide from it.
“Faith in general, is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrender of our souls. Lent, in kind, is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.” -Alicia Britt Chloe
Scraped thin might actually be ok. It might even be good. Because the less there is of me, the more there is of Christ. No one needs more of me – my inadequacies, my shortcomings, my tendency to panic over small stresses. But we absolutely could use more of Christ, his completeness, his wholeness, his rule and reign. This season of chaotic frenzy as we busily move from one task to another has been transformed to a season of ordered decrease as we quietly surrender our souls into the tender supremacy of God.
The candle flickers on. The flame is bright, and with every minute it burns the shorter it gets. Less is more. Less of me, less of my feeble attempts to get through this life, and more of Christ.
If you’re feeling like the Lent season snuck out of nowhere and also caught you by surprise here are a few resources that you can get immediately as we wrap up the second week of lent:
Lent 2017: You Are Mine on She Reads Truth – 49 Day scripture based devotional
40 Day Devotional Journey – Scripture Meditation and Daily Fasting prayer by Ann Voskamp
40 Songs for Lent – my Spotify playlist for the season