Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On Weakness and Flaws and Redemption: A Lenten Reflection

"All of your flaws and all of my flaws
They lie there hand in hand
Ones we've inherited, ones that we learned
They pass from man to man"...Bastille

Lent is that time of year when we look our flaws and examine our weaknesses in a very deliberate way. We identify those parts of us that need improved, purified, redeemed. 

We are flawed. We need to change. We need a program. We need to overcome ourselves. Right?

I know in my own life, though, there is a tendency to use Lent as a "self-improvement project." Identify my flaws, and work on fixing them. This is a very laudable endeavor. We are called to strive for virtue, and Lent is an ideal time to try and cultivate those virtues more intentionally, especially the virtues that we routinely fall short on.

What can end up happening, though, is a overwrought focus on my "success" or my "progress" and my "effort". We can get carried away thinking about how well we are doing on our life improvement plan, rather than using it as an opportunity to focus on our need for grace.

The sheer fact that it is so difficult for me to give up chocolate, or social media, or to pray more for the people that annoy me, or trust that God will provide for me,  is a little pathetic. These little moments of struggle illuminate my weakness.

But what if rather than letting our weakness disgust and discourage us, we were to glory in it. 

Not out of laziness and despair, but out of hope.

What if we don't just simply try and power through, stoically strengthening our self discipline muscles, but to take some time to rest in the reality of that weakness. To come to peace with it. Not to berate ourselves for that weakness. But to glory in that weakness. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sounds counterintuitive, right?

But it's not.  "God I am WEAK. And I need you."

In encountering our weaknesses and flaws we recognize our dependency. It's as if we can cry out to God,

"There's a hole in my soul
I can't fill it I can't fill it
There's a hole in my soul
Can you fill it? Can you fill it?" (Bastille)

I know the sins and weaknesses that I am prone to. I will probably always struggle with lack of discipline, laziness, desire for comfort, and at times, cowardliness. Your tendencies might be completely different - perhaps yours are anger, resentment, control. But whatever they are, we all have them, and we will battle with them and wrestle with them for a lifetime. It are these very struggles, though, that will be are path to sanctification; these flaws that cry out for a Redeemer. 

Sometimes it frustrates me, whether it's on the way to the confessional, or looking these weaknesses in a more penetrating way during Lent - that I continue to struggle with the same. things. over. and. over. again.

When am I going to overcome these? When will I reach perfection?

These moments where we realize our weakness and sinfulness should not be a moment of self-censure, but an opportunity for Thanksgiving. It is because of weakness that we are dependent on His grace to overcome them. And it is through His grace that we are transformed and saved.

Because it is that place of emptiness, of inadequacy, of failure and defeat, where the torrent of His love must rush in and make us new.

Where we are weak, He is strong.

So at the end of Lent, our perhaps our question should not be "how well did I do in overcoming my flaws, in denying myself?" It should be, "How well did I let Him fill that hole in my soul?"

When His love rushes in to transform the dirty and decrepit places in our souls that are our flaws, we are made new. We are healed. We are made whole. It is by His love, not simply our willpower, that we are transformed.