The final week and a half of Lent. FINALLY. It is finally here. This past week and a half was definitely THE hardest week of Lent for me.
The last time I did the Daniel Fast, which was only 3 weeks long, the third week was pretty difficult because I started craving everything that I knew I’d be able to eat again. That seemed to hit me in week 5, but during week 6, I didn’t think about it as much. Sugar didn’t seem that appealing to me, which was a huge struggle for me before the fast. The biggest cravings I had was meat and cheese (hello pizza!). Besides that, the fast wasn’t too difficult the last week. The one good thing that happened was weighing myself at 177.8.
The final week and a half of Lent was also when I first attempted the week 5, day 3 run of my Couch to 5K program, which is a 5 minute warm up, TWENTY MINUTES STRAIGHT RUNNING, and 5 minutes cool down. Twenty minutes!! Oh my word. This is the first day that they make you run without any walking breaks in the middle. I had already mentally felt defeated when I thought about this day, but everyone said I could do it…so I made my first attempt. It ended after 11 minutes. I was discouraged that I didn’t run the entire thing, but was proud that I had at least run 11 minutes straight..my longest run yet. A few days later I tried again…13 minutes. Still not the full thing, but this time I came to realize something. I posted something on my facebook that day that said something like this: “I’m up to 13 minutes straight running. This process is teaching me that not completing a full run (or project, or hard situation) is not a failure. I did better than the last time. That’s success in my book.” I was felt proud that I was getting better with each run. But then, the next few times I attempted the 20 minute run, I quit early. 10 minutes. 5 minutes. 7 minutes. I just couldn’t seem to get it. It was discouraging. I was getting closer and closer to the end of Lent, and my goal of finishing a 5k by Easter (by trying to cram an 8 week program into 6 1/2 weeks) just wasn’t going to happen. Heck, I couldn’t even run for 13 minutes like I had just a few days earlier! What was my problem!?! A few days later, I tried again…this time I got 15 minutes! I was excited. I didn’t get to 20, but I was getting closer now! That was my last run before Easter. 15 minutes. A long way from a 5k (30-40ish minutes), but 15 minutes longer than I had run when I first started! And I was proud of what I had accomplished.
But those things weren’t even the hardest parts for me. The hardest part of week 6 and 6 1/2 was just living life. On the Friday before Palm Sunday, a coworker lost her husband to cancer. She was someone who I’ve had something in common with, a husband with cancer, and now her road was taking a different path. It was hard, painful, scary…a lot to process. That entire week was hard…he was declining fast and there was nothing I could do about it. Something I couldn’t fix. Something I couldn’t say anything to change. And then watching my coworker lose her husband…something no wife ever wants to face. It was an incredibly sad time. And then, on Palm Sunday, I suddenly got a text message from a friend asking for prayer. One of our very close friends had just lost her dad, very suddenly, very unexpected. It was like someone dropped a load of bricks on me. I was stunned, shocked, deeply sad, and felt totally helpless. Those two things deeply affected our staff as we walked through Holy Week, leading up to Easter. That week, I posted on facebook: “I don’t know about you, but in my world, it feels as though my friends and I are desperately crawling to Easter, weighed down by the weight of the world. Thank you, Jesus, for Easter. Thank you, Jesus, for being our rescue. Thank you, Jesus, for being our hope. Thank you, Jesus, for being the light at the end of our tunnel.” Beyond any of the things I had done during Lent this year…the fast, the 5k challenge…the anticipation of Easter was almost tangible. But not in an excited, anxious frenzy that you would think. It was probably the most emotionally accurate “Holy Week” that I’ve experienced. The Bible does not describe the events of that week being filled with anxious excitement. It was a painful, agonizing, grueling week leading to the Cross.
The one advantage we have today is the fact that we know how it ended. We know what happened on Sunday.
And that was the one thing that got my coworkers and I through that week. The final details on a laundry-list of “to do’s” for Easter, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when we’d already spent months working towards this event at church, the preparations for funerals, attending funerals, grieving with our friends for their losses. But Sunday was coming. We know that Jesus wins. We know the outcome…that Jesus is our hope of escaping this broken world and being reunited with our friends, family, and ultimately with Him.
By the end of the work week, it was time for us to head up to Iowa to celebrate Easter with family. We had a great time together. We celebrated the news that there will be a new family member by Christmas this year..another niece or nephew for Brian and I. We made great memories. And then we experienced something that most of us will probably never forget.
The day before Easter, my family was leaving our hometown church after helping get things set up for Sunday when we witnessed a horrible, terrifying, fatal car accident right in front of us. The images of that day still haunt me. Just like that…life changes. Just like that…someone lost their life. Nothing prepares you for that. It felt like a cruel joke….one more incredibly difficult thing to process before Easter would arrive. As if the week hadn’t been hard enough. As if we weren’t ready for Easter to symbolically bring us hope and freedom that we were desperately crawling to.
After the events of that entire week, and the 6 1/2 weeks leading up to it, I was more than ready for Easter. It brought such a rich meaning. A hope that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so strongly about. A hope that almost felt tangible. Finally….Easter. Freedom, hope, a reason to give us peace and joy in the midst of this broken, shattered world. I processed all that I had been through over the course of Lent, with the final week weighing heavy on my heart. It felt more real to me than almost any Easter ever has. Jesus…it’s all about Jesus. He died for ME. So that I would have hope of being with Him some day, away from the brokenness of this world. Jesus. He died for ME. So that I could walk in freedom from the chains that so easily shackle me from day to day. Jesus…He died for ME. So that I could have victory…over addiction, over sin, over death.
I processed all that I had experienced in the past 6 1/2 weeks. The difficulty from breaking incredible chains to luxury foods. The process of dealing with emotions without stuffing my face. The great news of remission. The mentally and physically challenging process of running, a new attempt for me. The incredibly trying projects at work leading up to Easter. The times where food taunted me, while everyone was eating delicious things around me and I was eating something less than delicious. The good news that Brian’s metabolism levels were looking good. The discouraging process of not being able to run 20 minutes straight. The joy of losing a few pounds. And the agony of the final week…deaths, details and an almost literal crawl to Easter morning.
As Saturday night faded away, I wrote this as a note on my phone…
“Thank you Jesus for what you endured on the cross so that I could have freedom from bondage. Let me walk in true freedom and not let myself become enslaved by things in which you have set me free. Thank you for your forgiveness when I fail over and over. Thank you for your grace, because I will never be good enough. Thank you for loving me so deeply that you willingly gave up your life for me…even when I miserably fail you. I am so unworthy. Help me live a life that brings glory and honor to you. Give me strength to live a life of freedom and not to run back to the snares that so easily trap me. Help me see that you are enough and that you satisfy me completely, more than any food ever could. I love you. I want to only glorify you. Thank you for your love and holiness. Help me to walk in your holiness. Help me listen to your quiet voice of truth. Food can’t ever satisfy me in the way that you do. It can’t ever heal a broken heart or celebrate in joy the way you do. I love you. Thank you for loving me.”
And just like that….it was Easter.