Examine Yourselves – 2 Corinthians 13
Darkness pressed in and the weight of tortured prayers hung low above my body, prone and still. I rolled over, burying my face in the pillow so salty tears would dissolve into cotton instead of streaking my skin.
The clock in our bathroom ticked like an ice pick on frozen water, sending echoes into the inky night. My eyes peeled open in vain, wishing for handwriting on the wall and solutions to the heartbreak of this world.
- I resolved to fast.
- To limit food choices on non-fasting days.
- To read Scripture with fervor.
- To wake up early for prayer.
- To give up sleep in the morning, bartering comfort for answers.
Instead, I am left with quiet. I am left making promises. I am left testing myself.
Today’s Scripture selections included 2 Corinthians 13, the final chapter in Paul’s impassioned plea to the Christians in Corinth. He tells them, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail to meet the test!”
Each Lent I purpose to test myself by saturating the weeks leading to Calvary in the Biblical text. I want so badly to walk the dusty Damascus road with my Lord; to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
I make plans to snatch back the minutes lost to the mundane distractions of life; to sit at the Rabbi’s feet in joy, not thinking about grocery lists, bills stashed in the cupboard or spelling words I should be practicing with my kids.
But this Lent I am already failing miserably. I am failing my own test.
- I have not fasted.
- I have only succeeded in limiting my food on “non-fasting days” (see first bullet point) when there are no Milk Duds in sight.
- I have not read Scripture with fervor—or barely at all outside of church.
- Instead of dedicating the sunrise to earnest prayer, I have overslept, hoarding the sheets and our thick duvet like a stray dog scarfing up crumbs.
So today I am a child grabbed by the shoulders, staring into the fiery, longing eyes of Paul as he begs me to test my faith. And though the enemy tempts me to despair, to toss up my hands in exasperation, wondering if my faith can be proven at all, I am reminded that my wrestling toward something better is proof enough.
Because we should feel small and slight during Lent.
We should be bent low in the shadow of the cross, reminded that we are sinners who will never “get it right.” Rather, we are in constant need of a savior, of true repentance that prompts us to turn and choose a better way.
When I slip into believing the enemy’s lies, blinded by the veil pulled snuggly over my eyes, this is when Jesus whispers, “My daughter, when you are weak, I am strong.”
His steady, loving voice speaks truth, echoing what I already know but choose to forget: that my salvation lies not in the striving, but in my faith and desire to “see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly” (source).
So this Lent, in those moments of deep darkness and midnight prayers; in those times of bargaining and pleading, I must remember that my test of faith is not to put myself on display—with sack cloth and ashes and gonging cymbols in the temple—but to put God on display.
I must remember that even my failings and shortcomings are an opportunity to put Jesus in the spotlight.
And this Lent, that’s enough for me.
Jane Graham is a paper-and-ink-word-lover and is amazed that God has opened the door to a career in writing. In 2010 Jane helped write Weaving Dreams: the Joy of Work, the Love of Life, which debuted at #13 on the Wall Street Journal List. More importantly, Jane loves being a mom and raising her three kids to be young disciples, to bake great cookies, and to enjoy summer with abandon. While she has put blogging on the back burner for a season, you can learn more about her and her love of Jesus at GirlMeetsPaper.com.