The season of Lent is over. If you read my post about participating in Lent this year, then you know that it was a new thing for me. Like any sporting event, writing assignment, workout regimen or group project, there is a time of assessment and evaluation that must follow. I don’t intend on treating Lent any differently.
I’ll confess that I did not read my Bible every day during Lent, which had sort of been my intention. I did, however, study a Christianity-based marriage book and/or make an active decision to reflect on myself, the way I treat Cory or my and Cory’s relationship in general every day. Some days, that meant me cooking a special meal for the two of us just because I felt like it. Some days, that meant we sat down and talked about how to budget. Some days, that meant I took various moments throughout the day to pray for Cory or our relationship and thank God for bringing us together. And some days, I read from my Bible. I’m currently rereading the book of Proverbs, which deals primarily with wisdom, something of which I know I could use more.
The result? Am I a better Christian? Am I a better person? Am I a better fiancee? Am I more prepared to be a wife? I guess my answer is: I hope so.
As I studied a marriage book and tried to analytically plan out the future, Cory brought up a good point. One night when we were hanging out, I was telling him about things I agreed with and disagreed with in the marriage book. He listened to me, then gestured to his tightly packed bookshelf across the room:
“I’ve read no telling how many books like that; how to be the right kind of person, how to think the right way, how to do life the right way. A lot of those guys live in a fairy tale land. Their opinion won’t work for everyone. It just can’t.”
I started to worry that I’d wasted my time. Then he said, “And as far as you reading that marriage book, don’t read it thinking you have to become a completely different person. If you were any different than who you are, we wouldn’t be where we are right now. Someone different, well, that’s not who I’ve hung out with. That’s not who I proposed to. That’s not who I want to be with.”
Some of you may read that and realize the sweetness, and some of you may read that and be reprimanding Cory and me in your head that we are to please God, not mankind. Let me just say that I agree with both opinions, in a way. However, what Cory said took a load off my mind. In that moment, he reminded me that no matter how many books I read, how many hours I spend studying my Bible or praying, I can’t achieve perfection. That’s a hard reality for a perfectionist to accept.
Yes, I want to follow God’s law and show Christ’s love to others. That hasn’t changed. But I have to keep in mind that I continually fall short, even when I feel like I’m doing all the “right” things. Furthermore, I realized that perhaps I was placing the wrong kind of emphasis on the marriage book, almost as an extension of the Bible; and as a Baptist Christian, I don’t believe that anything can be added to or taken away from the Bible (see Ecclesiastes 3:14, if you’re curious).
As I started rereading Proverbs, I came across things I didn’t remember or that hadn’t impacted me before. Then it hit me: Lent should be every day, all year, every year of our lives. Time spent reflecting on one’s thoughts and actions and learning from one’s mistakes and striving to grow closer to God shouldn’t just be a special 45-day event for Christians (they probably teach that in denominations that practice Lent every year, but, remember, I’m still new to this whole thing).
If I want to be a better friend, I should be a better friend every day. If I want to show Jesus’ love, I should find a way to do it every day. If I want to be a better partner to Cory, I should be just that every day. Any of these things could come in many forms, and I don’t think any way would be wrong, as long as it truly comes from a genuine place in my heart.
So maybe I did learn something during Lent. Maybe I learned that we’re sailing through this thing called life, hitting rough patches here and there, taking wrong turns and drifting on gentle breezes on sunny days. The learning process is just part of it. And maybe it’s not so much about me trying to change myself into a “better” person as it is about letting God do what He needs to do with me to affect others, whether that’s in my own home or on the other side of the world.
Will I do Lent again? Yes, I believe so. Perhaps next year, I’ll read Proverbs throughout the month, or maybe another book of the Bible. And the years after that? Well…I’ll know when I get there. In the meantime, I’m open to being the person I need to be. My apologies ahead of time for when I fail.