Do you give up anything for Lent? Maybe it’s chocolate. Or carbs. Maybe you go to DEFCON 1 by giving up shopping on Amazon.
This year, what if you gave up your right to be mad at someone?
Let me walk that back. Maybe there’s pain. Or you’re estranged from someone you love. Or things are difficult or dysfunctional.
While it’s a bit up for debate, some experts say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Imagine if you spent Lent—40 full days— bringing this difficult relationship to the Lord for his care. For his repair. Imagine 40 days of placing your shattered, battle-toughened heart into his hands.
Maybe a new habit would form. Maybe how you respond to that hard relationship would be different.
I’ve written an eBook that might help. Called 40 Days of Prayer for Difficult Relationships, I wrote it for anyone navigating a dysfunctional, damaged or damaging relationship. They’re not perfect prayers. But some of them gave me my life back. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
The part I’m most excited about is (and, as a 20-year marketing professional, I know this is a terrible hook) you’re going to spend a lot of time praying for the person you’re at odds with.
Anyone here? Hello. Do I need to unmute?
Oh, I see. I’m not on mute, it’s just that you’re sorting through all the other noise. All the objections to praying for someone who’s caused you pain. All the identity-cracking, heart-breaking battles fought through tears and failed efforts and time.
Yeah, but you don’t know what ________ did.
Yeah, but ________ is the one who rejected/betrayed/injured me.
Yeah, but ________ has harmed my reputation with things that aren’t true.
Yeah, but I’ll give up all my power if I back down now.
Here’s one of the hardest, most liberating truths of the Christian life: The only power I wield while I navigate life on this spinning rock is the power of the cross. That’s it. My Savior did not hang on the cross and think, “I’m going to give up my power if I ask God to forgive the people who put me here.”
He gave it up.
He gave it all up.
And in the doing, His real power was demonstrated.
Good swallowed evil, life swallowed death, and you and I live to tell about it 2,000 years later. I can’t claim Jesus’ name but ask him to change his terms. I can’t wear a cross around my neck and not have its sacrifice seared into my heart.
I am not suggesting in any way that we stay in abusive situations or let people habitually, repeatedly and methodically hurt us. We should not do that. Not ever. But in the boundary-setting, and licking our wounds, and learning new steps, our highest offering of obedience to God is “purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence to God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Perfecting holiness is hard work. And nothing contaminates like the state of being mad all the time. So, let’s not be mad anymore.
We can lay it down, you know. Jesus showed us the way. He laid everything down for us and that’s the only power we’ve got in this world. That’s the deal. And if we take that deal—if we really take that deal—the cross will be no trivial thing. We’ll feel the splinters of conviction with the headwinds of freedom. We’ll love until it hurts. We’ll die. We’ll live. We’ll understand that when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” that extends to all people in all times who put him on that tree in all sorts of terrible ways.
And that includes us.
Lent begins Feb. 17. Take a journey with me this Lenten season. Spend 40 days with me not being mad at someone you have a “right” to be mad at. As we journey, remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. Watch your muscles form. See your legs get stronger underneath you. Step into a higher calling as the Lord unleashes his power into your life.
What could you possibly lose?
What could you impossibly gain?
Let’s find out together.
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