Constant Failures

How is Lent going? Are you still full of enthusiasm, or are you ruefully beginning to count how many good intentions have fallen by the wayside? Has there been a little fudging on the fasting front, perhaps, or sudden blindness/deafness when confronted by someone in need? And all that extra prayer you promised yourself, where did that go?

Note I said, ‘promised yourself’. The trouble with Lenten resolutions is that very often they are about us. It is an old joke in the monastery that the Lent Bill written by God bears no relation to the one we ourselves write. We were going to do great things for God but, strangely, we find we can’t do the little ones he actually asks. Being patient with X or curbing the withering reply, no, that’s too much to ask. We are tired and hungry and our temper is uncertain. Let’s get on with the Bigger Programme we set ourselves and leave these trifling details to others. Well, NO.

I freely admit that my Lent has, so far, been a constant failure. Everything I set myself to do and be has collapsed around my ankles. I’m not proud of that, I’m certainly not happy about that; but I think it may be the lesson I need to learn — yet again. I am constantly failing, but the emphasis should be on the constant not the failure. What God asks of us is that we try, and go on trying no matter how often we fail. Today’s gospel, Matthew 7. 7–12, is one I find very challenging. To treat others as one would be treated oneself, yes, I can see how that would be not merely a Lenten programme in itself but, as Jesus says, ‘the meaning of the Law and the Prophets’. Pray for me as I do for you, that together we may arrive at the great feast of Easter, still failures in the ordinary sense of the word, no doubt, but definitely constant, standing firm on the rock that is Christ.


16 thoughts on “Constant Failures”

  1. So far, I’m not doing too badly on restraining my impatience and anger though I must admit I would be annoyed if my fence had been knocked down yet again (as you’ve just reported). However, I’m constantly reassured by “Every day we begin again”. So every day we can really try to turn over to a new leaf and try again, hoping not to fail this time.

  2. My relationship with and my good Lord is now changed somewhat whether it be growth I know not but I no longer make my own New Year or Lenten resolutions but simply embrace whatever He asks of me each day. As my resolutions never turned out to be useful but what He asks of me always are perfectly tuned and suited.

  3. This was so comforting to read. Not that I wish you to fail! But it’s reassuring to know that we are not alone in our failures: a community of sinners, stumbling along together in the hope of Easter. Your post today is like a hand put out to grab mine and pull me along.

    Only this morning, as I surveyed my sorry start to Lent, I remembered that I don’t have to ‘manage’ alone; I have but to ask, and it shall be given. And so it has been.

    P.S. As I remember from family experience, steroid treatment for cancer can be HORRIBLE. Underneath the lion’s shaggy pelt, however, you are still you…thank heavens.

  4. A good friend warned me that it is not the steroids (low dose for me) that make you put on weight, but the effect they have on making people want to eat. Not sure if that’s your situation but the warning has helped me. I find that it’s the effort of walking away from temptation (biscuits cake toast) that makes me tired and crabby and “unLenten”. Prayers for all “Lenten” people as we wrestle with each new day.

    • Having been on steroids for many years, I am, unfortunately, only too familiar with the problems associated with them. I’m not worried about the fast (we fast every day in the monastery during Lent) but the effect a high dose has on one’s mood. They make one very ‘buzzy’.

  5. Deo Gratias! I thought I was the only one whose intentions had ‘collapsed around my ankles”. Nothing to do but forgive myself and try again regardless of my infirmities.

    Thank you as I learn to forgive myself as I would have others forgive me.


  6. Not so much ‘collapsed around my ankles’ as wilfully trodden underfoot, in my case! My attempts at Lenten discipline always remind me that God has a sense of humour…
    Our bodies, well or unwell, can have such a terrific effect on our mood and behaviour but I suppose that’s exactly what the Incarnation teaches us – God knows these weaknesses and does reach down to us with loving kindness to lift us up and help us onward. Loving thoughts to all from All Saints x

  7. What was worse for me was that I was aware of slipping and yet almost drifted in slow motion and let it happen. It was very odd and I gave in all too easily. How could I be so weak? It annoys me now – but I do know that the same tendency will present itself in the morning and weakness may well triumph again. The gentle nudge from everyone here means I will try harder and resist the excuses that I used today to justify things to myself (Yes it was all about me…) – I am sure that God was not surprised in the least!

  8. I am not having a good Lent, or more precisely (and honestly), I am not having a good ‘me’ during Lent. I seem to have failed on all counts so far, even with prayer. Shameful. That said, I am taking the time to write this, so all is not lost. If I truly did not care about Lent then these words would not see the light of day. There is still plenty of Lent to experience on our journey to Easter, time yet to pull myself together. I will start with a prayer and some contemplative reading.

    • Be encouraged. If you thought you were having a ‘good’ Lent, something would probably be wrong. St Catherine of Siena is alleged to have said that the Lord does not ask perfection of us but infinite desire. We may need to remember that, no matter how often or how far we fall, the Everlasting Arms are beneath us, and his mercies are new every morning.

  9. Thank you for this. It’s so helpful to know that I’m not alone in my Lenten failures. It feels so depressing to have stumbled so quickly, but it’s the getting up and going on with God’s help that really matters.

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