(Please be aware that during the season of Lent, these weekly devotions will be arriving in your inbox on Tuesdays.)
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15, NRSV)
Yes, it is a bit sloppy. I’m not talking about the cross, of course. The purple Lenten covers for our two processional crosses were made to fit tightly and precisely over the brass and wooden crosses, with a ribbon on the bottom to secure them in place. No … I’m referencing that black cloth atrocity that we used to drape the Alleluia banner on the night of our Palm Burning service. It looks like a black hole on the picture which serves as the header to this devotion. It is just a rough cut piece of black cotton cloth … nothing fancy. And after more than two decades of occasional use, it is threadbare, out of shape, and … well, to be honest … ghastly.
Thus, it is “perfect” for Lent. Because Lent isn’t about “perfectly” following your Lenten disciplines. It is about cheating twice when you snuck some of the chocolate that you gave up for Lent. It is about those three days when your schedule simply didn’t allow you to read a chapter of the Book of Genesis as you had planned. It is about missing one of the church’s mid-week morning Lenten services. In short, try as we might, Lent is about recognizing that we can never be the “perfect” person we want to be … during Lent … or at any other time in our life.
We adopt Lenten disciplines precisely because we know we can never perfectly live out the faith that God breathes into us. We want to. But life just gets in the way, sometimes. St. Paul captures the dynamic in his verse from Romans 7. And so, this ragged, imperfect drape that hides the message of the “Alleluia” banner for our forty liturgical days, is just right for Lent. Because it is a little ragged, just like you and me. It hangs over the Alleluia banner somewhat awkwardly, just as our faith sometimes feels awkwardly suited for the challenges in our lives. It is threadbare from use, and mimics perfectly the ancient practices that we try on for size during these forty days.
So rejoice (with proper Lenten solemnity) and be glad (but not too glad, yet), because God knows your frailties and failing before you are even aware of them, and has planned ahead so that you are “covered” … not by a dingy old black drape, but by the sacrificial love of Jesus. That, my friends, is something to pray about this week.