“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.”
As I look back over the season of Lent, these words are helping me make sense of it. This year, Lent felt strange for me. It didn’t start with the imposition of ashes on my forehead, but with the constant booming of fireworks as China celebrated Chinese New Years Eve. For a Lenten discipline, I picked a book to guide me in practicing centering prayer for 40 days. Centering prayer is a type of prayer where you are present with God, but not with words or images or thoughts. Just silence and centering on God. It is a famous spiritual discipline. And I am terrible at it. Being silent isn’t the hard part for me, its the no words or images or thoughts. Once I sit silently my mind runs off in many directions (many of them good). So even though I have been practicing now for 40 days, I’m not much better at it than I was on Ash Wednesday.
Even though I have failed in doing this spiritual practice the right way, I have discovered God’s grace in the midst of my failure. Towards the end of Lent, I also started reading a book called 50 Ways to Pray. The author talks about contemplative prayer and how hard it is for those of us who are used to doing and productivity. Contemplative prayer, or centering prayer, doesn’t work that way. You don’t see results—positive or negative. And I feel like I should be doing something, praying something, reading something, writing something. And I’m not.
In these final days of Lent, I think that’s the struggle and the gift for me, to learn to be and not to quantify the value. Jesus has accomplished it all. His cry on the cross was “it is finished!” Nothing I do or don’t do changes that. Whether I pray the right way, whether I was productive this afternoon, whether I do my homework perfectly, whether I have something impressive to report, “it is finished.” It is finished, and it didn’t depend on me. Jesus is the savior. I am not.
Not only has Jesus finished it, during this Lenten season he called me into his arms with all of my worry and burdens. Along with thoughts about centering prayer, the book I followed had prompts for daily lectio divina (“holy reading,” a way to read and pray scripture slowly). This has been a much richer discipline for me during this season and I have recorded thoughts and prayers inspired by this reading in my journal. One of the scriptures was Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Through these familiar words, I heard a renewed invitation to trust in the gentle heart of Jesus, to let him take my burdens and cares. It doesn’t all depend on me, and so I can rest in him.