This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at

By Raquel Sequeira, Yale Timothy Dwight ’21

The thing about any Lent “resolution”—some practice to either fast or take on—is that failure is inevitable. We will certainly break our promise to ourselves and God at least once, if not many times, both forgetfully and also knowingly. And thus also inevitable is shame. We will feel shame for our lack of discipline, our lack of holiness, even shame for absence of shame. But I think this shame is a part – though certainly not the whole – of the point.

The purpose of the long, sometimes painful weeks of Lent is not primarily to make us better at fasting, or even better at praying, but to make us better at humility. It takes 40 days of pointed failure to help remind us of our constant, irremovable, desperate need for Jesus—the only one who fasted perfectly. It’s harder to recognize our true desperation in the midst of the daily failures that we’ve numbed our conscience to.

Repeated failures during Lent are merciful reminders to fall to our knees, the posture that is required of us when we take communion and say: “we do not presume to come to this your table, oh merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies.” It is the posture of the heart in which we are closest to our loving Father, who only waits for us to let Him lift us up.



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