A story someone once told me goes something like this:
A world-renowned businesswoman was being interviewed as part of a public lecture series. The hall was packed with people eager to hear her words of wisdom. A prominent journalist moderated the discussion.
“To what do you owe your success?” the journalist asked.
“Wisdom,” she replied.
“So, how did you get wise?”
“But how did you gain experience?”
“I tried something. It often failed. So I tried again. ”
Why must so much of the Christian life be a paradox? To be great, we must become humble (Matt. 23:12). To be at peace, we must rest under a yoke (Matt. 11:29). We have faith in a Saviour who shows us that to live, we must die.
This frustrates me to no end.
The world all around me shouts that success
is to be rich, famous, powerful, and well-liked.
To be "victorious" according to the world is living without weakness, never burdened by misery or hardship.
So here is your gentle, Lenten reminder for today:
The only way to truly "succeed" at Lent is to fail.
The only truly "victorious" Lenten season is one that leaves you knocked down a peg or two in self-reliance but richer in self-understanding.
You don't have to let this be a reason for your self-esteem to curdle like a cup of forgotten milk on a hot day. Instead, let this knowledge inspire self-compassion.
I’m flawed, I’m human. But we’re all in this together. My God-directed and -inspired growth comes as a direct result of messing up my own best-laid plans.
This is a golden opportunity hidden in plain sight, the perfect time for some discernment and self-inquiry.
Did my Lenten resolutions come from prayerful consideration of, and cooperation with, what God is asking of me right now? Or did they come from the places where my false self still reigns, where I still wear inner masks and try to hide from the reality of my life?
Imagine God looking down at you with a loving gaze, the way a parent might loving adore their newborn child. What does God want to say?
Or maybe you’d prefer to give your "failure" a shape, colour, or personality.
What does your "failure" look like? Envision it standing in front of you (or maybe it wants to laze around despondently on your couch. Or jump off the walls. Regardless, just let it do its thing). Have a conversation with your "failure". Approach it the way you might when you've happened upon a wild animal in the woods: It's timid, in need of soothing, more scared of you than you could ever be of it.
Above all, remember the words of Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
Traveler, your footsteps are the path, and nothing more.
Traveler, there is no path, you make the path by walking.
Wherever you find yourself spiritually and emotionally this Lent, God is close at hand. Take heart.