I was trying to answer a question about Lent. My friend said, “Describe the feeling that people are experiencing that observing Lent could help with.”
I wrote, “When you feel frustrated with faltering again on goals and resolutions.”
And I laughed. The truth is that many of us describe outcomes as “failures.” We started the year with a commitment to be more encouraging to our friends or to ask God for help with more of our decisions. We started with a commitment to workout somehow every day or to read a book every week. We started Lent with a similar resolve.
And now, three months into the year, we’ve failed. Just like we always do.
What if, for a moment, we substituted the word “falter” for the word “fail”?
When you fail, you have to start over. You have to go back. You have to redefine yourself.
When you falter, you have to catch a breath, you have to refuel, you have to ask for a hand.
But you aren’t starting over. You haven’t failed.
The ancient church didn’t approach the new year with resolutions. They offered seasons and practices. For four weeks before Christmas, they practiced anticipation. It helped them appreciate the apparent anticlimax of an infant king. For six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter, they practiced restraint. It helped them appreciate the seeming failure of the death of the servant king, and the celebration of resurrection.
So for Lent, the time before Easter, we give up and embrace. We make room for listening by giving up noise. We make room for appreciating food by giving it up some meals. We acknowledge that we falter in our walks with God and each other, and that we need to seek help from each to keep walking.
And even with two weeks left until Easter, we can start again to give up a little.
I understand the feeling of fearing failure. It often keeps me from starting. But if I know that though I may falter, there is help, I may begin the journey that can transform me. Again.
This was first published in January 2016.
Lent for Non-Lent People is still available in paperback and for Kindle.