This week, we are in the midst of the battle.
Lent is a battle. It’s our “campaign of Christian service,” as the Ash Wednesday collect says.
At the beginning, we can be so gung-ho about Lent. We’ve gathered our weapons and put on the armor of God. (If we have loins to gird, we might even do that too.)
We’ve made plans and we know the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. Give up ALL the things! Become Super Awesome Prayer Warrior! Give The GDP Of Small Nation As Alms Every Week! We even wear our Lenten war paint. (#ashtag!)
This Sunday will be the third Sunday of Lent. I think of it as the hump day of Lent. If you’re anything like me, you are getting weary. The fighting is exhausting, you seem to be losing ground every day and this Lent isn’t turning out nearly as well as you’d hoped.
Perhaps part of the problem is that we’ve actually fighting the wrong battle.
The devil isn’t stupid (more’s the pity really). He knows that if we fight under the banner of Christ, he will lose. Spectacularly. (Seriously, he should really read Revelation 20. It does not end well.)
So he tries to drag us into another battle.
Fr. Jacques Philippe in Searching for and Maintaining Peace explains this beautifully.
Quite often in the daily unfolding of our Christian life it happens that we fight the wrong battle, if one may put it that way, because we orient our efforts in the wrong direction. We fight on a terrain where the devil subtly drags us and can vanquish us, instead of fighting on the real battlefield, where, on the contrary, by the grace of God, we are always certain of victory.
The false battlefield is the battle for PERFECTION. That’s not the holy, humble, joyful perfection of the saints which trusts for all things from God, it’s the PERFECTION OF GETTING ALL THINGS RIGHT.
We believe, for example, that to win the spiritual battle we must vanquish all our faults, never succumb to temptation, have no more weaknesses or shortcomings.
Guess what? We are always going to lose that battle.
But on such a terrain we are sure to be vanquished! Because who among us can pretend never to fall? And it is certainly not this God demands of us, for He knows of what we are made. He remembers we are dust (Psalm 103).
All the while, the real spiritual battle is going on somewhere else.
On the contrary, the real spiritual battle, rather than the pursuit of invincibility or some other absolute infallibility beyond our capacity, consists principally in learning, without becoming too discouraged, to accept falling occasionally and not to lose our peace of heart if we should happen to do so lamentably, not to become excessively sad regarding our defeats and to know how to rebound from our falls to an even higher level.
In that sense, this spiritual battle of Lent is the anti-battle. As Christians, we can’t fight for true peace. We can only receive it with humble and open hands. This is the peace Christ Jesus gives. (John 14:27)
To receive this peace, we have to let go. We have to stop fighting for perfection and let Christ the King do the fighting for us.
We have to put down our weapons, and whisper, “Lord, your will be done. I don’t why I’m so discouraged right now. I don’t know why I can’t be the Spiritual Superhero I want to be. But I’m not asking to like it and I’m not asking to understanding it. All I ask is that you stay with me. Fight my battles because I can’t. Stay with me, my Jesus.”
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)
Lent, it seems, isn’t the fight to fast the hardest, pray the longest or give the most. It is the spiritual struggle to believe the good news of the gospel:
God gives you His peace.