By Abbie Gristy
Just as Christmas celebrations begin to fade from our minds in January and all the ordinary sets in, Lent draws us near as spring approaches. The fast before the feast. Our hefty goals for the new year are now a bit dim, yet our expectations still heavy on our shoulders. If we allow it, Lent—with perfectly portioned days of waiting—offers a lightening, a surrender. The hope of what’s to come. If we let it, Lent ushers in the promise of resurrection, the promise of Easter.
Surely among the women at this table we share a common bond: expectations for victory and hope beyond disappointment. Certainly we all eagerly wait for Easter. Surely I am not alone.
Walking through bits and pieces of the book of John and reading a new book about how God works in our ordinary days, I am floored at the timely overlap of the book’s message and Scripture.
Our ordinary days are filled with deadlines, emails, conference calls, grocery shopping, carpooling, and dinners. All our ordinary days; not merely those leading into Lent, but all our coming and going. But in John’s account, Jesus is our example of ushering in Easter with these long, ordinary days of waiting. In John 18, when Judas brings officers from the chief of priests, Pharisees, and soldiers to confront and capture Jesus, Peter jumps into the middle of what’s happening. He pulls out his sword and severs the high priest’s servant’s ear. Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 ESV). Jesus will eventually be killed, and he knows it.
I understand Peter’s desire to jump in; I’m sure we all do. We spend our days putting out fires, solving problems. Quick resolutions and dodging disappointments are what we love. But here’s the tension: Without surrender we have no resurrection. When Jesus is surely in great despair, his response to Peter is still, “Lay down your sword. I must drink the cup.”
Jesus shows us what Lent can be—the long ordinary days of surrender that can lead us to hope, to Easter. Exhausted from serving others or in our own days of despair and in our loneliest places, we beg the question: Can we find any promise of hope?
In the hour the text comes from a friend confirming she has cancer, or when another friend confesses that her addiction has taken hold again, do we see any sign of resurrection coming? Do we have any hope of joy and contentment even in the ordinary of dealing with tired, hungry kids?
Even in our ordinary days, is Easter drawing near?
Maybe Lent is to wait and remember the hope in Easter, knowing the victory is won, believing the cup of salvation is enough.
Maybe we need to lay down our swords. To stop fighting so hard for what we want to accomplish each day, for all we want to control and resolve. To stop fighting with the expectations we put on ourselves, on our husbands, on our kids and co-workers.
Maybe we just need to drink the cup. Fully accept the grace offered in Christ that proclaims we are loved without doing anything. Maybe we need to repent of sins we keep chasing though they are fully forgiven in Christ. Let forgiveness wash over us again and again and again like the blood of Christ poured out for us. To receive the gift.
Maybe the purpose of Lent is to teach us to lay down our swords, to surrender, to drink the cup—so that as Easter dawns, we can fully receive the grace Jesus offers us.
With southern roots in both Texas and Tennessee, Abbie Gristy loves sharing life with family and friends and is happiest when her home is full of both. She and her husband of 15 years have three strong and sweet kids who love adventure and daily provide new writing material. Her passion is making the most of every moment, currently learning to live life less like a list and more like a lyric.
Photograph © Ornella Binni, used with permission