We are in the season of Lent. From childhood we were encouraged to give something up to enable us to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. People fast or give up red meat on Fridays. Give up technology. Give up alcohol.
All noble sentiments but I am not sure whether they translate into any concept of the exquisite pain of crucifixion to which Jesus knowingly surrendered himself.
As an adult, I understand that the purpose of self-sacrifice is to enter into a mindset, a prayerful intent, as we journey with our fellow Christians through this period of preparation and reconciliation. The action of giving up, both tangible and concrete, leads to a sense of loss, hunger, or regret, and has the potential to move our hearts and minds to a place of gratitude.
For me, giving up this year was not quite so intentional, nor was I thinking of Lent.
It happened in an instant. One minute I was upright, the next, sprawled all over the floor after missing my footing on stairs.
A small fracture provides a different perspective. The obvious is how important every part of our complex body is, and when one of those parts stops working to its optimum, the owner of the body really notices.
But what happens if I reframe this accident and place it in the context of Lent? Apart from the fact that I have never read anywhere that you might want to give up mobility for Lent, all the other aspects of Lent seem to have resonance.
As Christians we are called to be dependent on God. Not an easy ask when most of us in Australia have everything we could ever wish for. We pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency. And yet the early Christians modelled a life of dependency on each other. Our Church’s Vision statement reminds us that we are ‘seeking community’.
A loss of mobility has forced me to be dependent on others – to help provide basic needs and to attend to my environment – chores that were previously easy and done with little thought.
How can I turn this physical lesson into a transcendent one, and seek God’s help in being dependent on Him?
Being dependent demands a graceful response; many of us are not good at accepting help. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, his life given for ours, is the ultimate gift of grace. As I sit with a mildly throbbing ankle, feeling sorry for myself for a missed overseas holiday and other minor sacrifices, how do I use this period of Lent to reflect on God’s ultimate sacrifice and the gift of grace given freely for me?
A dear colleague has been the face of Jesus for me in the early days of my fall, gently tending to me, helping me adjust to this temporary inconvenience. Her grace is the physical manifestation of the Christian call – played out across millions upon millions of communities every single day.
In the midst of our daily struggles, we have much to be thankful for.