Lent is the 40 days before Easter, sometimes compared to the 40 years of wandering in the desert or the 40 days of temptation Jesus went through. It is a time of preparation, a time of reflection, a time of paring down our lives to focus on Jesus' death and resurrection. People will often give up something in order to align themselves with Jesus better...his suffering, his sacrifice, his unselfishness...Each Sunday, however, is to be a mini-celebration of his resurrection.
Today was definitely that for me. I love baptisms in our church. More often than not, I get to hear testimonies of people leaving a life that the enemy has nearly destroyed and receiving a new life that is completely different. The hope, the genuineness of their love and gratitude to God, the transforming power that is so evident in their lives...it's truly inspiring. Reminds me that this faith-walk is real, my God is real, and he is so needed in this world. So we hear a bit of their story, we hear of their desire to follow God, and then comes "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...splash...Woo Hoooo!!! (and much applause)". New life.
Yesterday, I got up with the kids. Though I certainly didn't get the sleep I needed, I woke up with a stirring in my spirit. After breakfast, we had a dance party (I move the table over, we crank up the tunes and the kids grab an instrument or "ribbon" and run around). Feeling the need to warm up a bit, I started us with a slower song, Brian Doerksen's "I See the Cross". Very powerful. The kids like the song "Today I choose...to follow Him...to give my yes to Him". Love that. But I came back to the first song and ended up putting it on repeat as we got out some paint and paper. I often don't join them, but this day was different. I suddenly got the idea to do something for Easter. I only have three colours of paint for myself as of yet...the colours of my livingroom. I happened to have two blank Dollarama canvases and one I had started but wasn't happy with. So I painted over the one with black...it was almost all black anyway. Then I painted the second red with the same little foam brush. J and R were at my side, their paintings finished. J was very concerned when I brushed on some black. He thought I had ruined it, but I kept mixing it in until I had the right shade and a bit of shading at the same time. All the while, I told them what the painting meant: black was for our sin and red was for Jesus' blood. The kids were crowding in on me, wanting to help. I was getting uptight at times. This was my one chance to paint and now I had these little helpers in my space. As I finished up the second one, I made a decision. Yes, I would let them help me put the green on the last one. I want them to join me in the new life that Jesus brings. It may get a little messy, but that's life. At first I kept smoothing out their gloppy painting, but then I started to encourage it (lest you think I am a saint, I also got irritable and probably over-directed them). I wanted texture and movement (and the horse hairs from the cheaply made brushes also from Dollarama). All the while (well, at least before I got so busy instructing them), I prayed for them to find this new life that our painting symbolized...to join me there on the other side of forgiveness. It was such a cool experience. New life.
I'm still very much struggling each day with my old life, my old self. The one that easily falls into self-pity and pride. The one with the willing spirit and weak flesh. And sometimes not even that willing a spirit. But praise be to God for these celebrations of new life! There is hope. Death and despair shall not prevail, for we serve a risen Saviour! And he brings...new life!
P.S. I'm wearing green today. It feels good.