It was a pretty quiet afternoon in our house. My four-year-old daughter was coloring at the dining room table. I looked in from our kitchen and saw that my toddler son had crawled up on a chair to sit at the table next to his sister. I watched, unnoticed, as she gave him a piece of paper and a bright blue marker.
It must have been his first encounter with a marker. He first tried to color with the cap on, but he quickly realized something was amiss. So then, using his clumsy toddler hands, he tried to take the cap off. He struggled awhile, but his determination won the day. With a chubby fist, he grabbed that liberated marker and began to color. He was amazed at what he’d done, squealing and then shouting, “Mama!” and pointing with pride and joy at his creation.
What if you and I are bit like that marker? We’re made with this incredible possibility to create all kinds beauty and goodness. God created us to bring healing and love, mercy and hope into this world. But way too often we live life with our caps stuck on. We’ve got these things that keep us from living boldly and creatively and faithfully in the world. You might call them sins, but we’ve all got stuff that keeps us from deeply trusting God and actually loving our neighbor.
We are just now at the very beginning of a season that we in the Christian church call Lent. It’s a 40-day journey of sorts until Easter, when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. For generations, Christians have marked these Lent days with intentional disciplines of prayer, fasting, and works of love. People give up meat, or commit to worship on a Wednesday nights, or give of themselves to work on behalf of the poor and marginalized.
All those things are practices that loosen the caps stuck on the markers of our lives. Maybe you can jump into a discipline for the next six weeks that will free you to live with radiant faithfulness. What might you give up for Lent that would loosen that cap? What new thing might you claim to help you color more boldly? What is keeping you for boldly loving God and your neighbor?
Maybe you’ll give up chocolate and let those cravings drive you to prayer and generosity. Or perhaps you can do something even more. Try to give up despair for Lent, and spend time each day fostering a sense of hope through actions of goodness to build the world you long for. Or fast from hate for 40 days, praying each day for your enemies. These six weeks could be space to root out entitlement, or fear, or worry, or dizzying busy-ness from your life. Use 40 days to cultivate gratitude or generosity or courage.
In Christ we’re forgiven and made new. The project of becoming the people we’re made to be is a lifetime endeavor. And our world is always in need of more color. So let these coming weeks of Lent be a time when that cap on your life is loosened and you find new freedom to live boldly and beautifully as God’s own beloved one.
–Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor