Just Keep Swimming

By Sarah Barber

I didn’t grow up observing Lent. I didn’t grow up going to church either. Well, regularly. For a long time my understanding of this Lenten Season was shaped and puzzle-pieced together by what I saw others doing.

“I’m giving up coffee for Lent,” proclaims a proud mother of three who inside worries she won’t make it past day two without a nervous breakdown.

“See you in 40 days Facebook,” writes another twenty-something who publicly proclaims they won’t be back on social media until Lent is over.

Whatever the cause, I’ve always thought Lent was this frivolous time where ordinary people (maybe not even devout believers) publicly announce they are going to “give up” something for 40 days. But why? What’s the point, really?

Emilie Giffin points us in a new direction when she says, “Lent is our chance for a fresh start, a new page. We admit to ourselves our need for improvement. We put ourselves in God’s hands.”

My understanding of Lent has been all wrong.

Lent is not frivolous. Lent is very intentional.

Lent is not about giving up. Lent is about discipline.

Lent is not about quitting. Lent is a deliberate return.

Return.

Lent calls us to a time of intentional return to the Lord because that’s exactly what we need. As Emillie reminds us in today’s reading, “We do not consciously turn away from God. Instead, we drift away, like ships without rudders, with no particular aim in mind.”

If you are anything like me, being reminded that you are constantly ‘drifting’ can feel very defeating. I’m tempted to throw up my hands in frustration at the idea of our spiritual walks being more like one step forward, two steps back. But if I did, I’d miss the beauty in this thing called transformation.

God is continually calling us out of sin into life. God’s grace is endless and He is patiently waiting for us to return, repent, and keep pursuing holiness. And Lent is our chance to pursue these small transformations. And then keep pursuing them. And keep pursuing them.

John Henry Newman says, “We are ever but beginning... The most perfect Christian is to himself but a beginner.”

So keep going. If you’ve become forgetful of God’s presence, tell Him. If you’ve drifted away from God by the endless list of daily to-do’s, repent and return. But whatever you do, in the famous words of my friend Dory the fish, “Just keep swimming.”