Lent can be a long stretch of time for some of us. From every corner comes the call to repent — the exhortation to make a full accounting of our sins, to see our messes in the light of day. Some of us are very good at that. Some of us go to the desert with Jesus, intending to spend Lent in His company, and we get distracted by the devil.
We hear all sorts of temptations. Beginning with the simple recounting of a conversation gone awry or a stray thought of envy, we are led to evaluate and analyze each conversation of the day or every spoken word or fleeting thought this week. I should have said that differently. I should have held my tongue altogether there. I should not have spent so much time lingering in that coffee shop, clicking through Facebook. From there, we think of the to-do list with more than half its items yet unchecked. We remember the dust bunnies under the bed, the clothes at the bottom of the hamper, the fact that we called for takeout twice last week.
And now, the tempter in the desert is hissing loudly in our ears. Not good enough. Not patient enough. Not organized enough. Not diligent enough. The hissing reaches a wild, unfettered crescendo. Not enough. Never enough. Never will be enough.
The accuser is taking up residence inside our heads, and he is speaking to us in our own voices. We hear him talking; the things he’s saying — we are allowing him to say — are things we’d never say to another person. We’d never be so unkind, never be so accusatory, never be so relentless. Somehow, though, the self-evaluation of this season has given way to well-entrenched habits of self-recrimination. We talk to ourselves inside our heads in ways that would astonish people who hear us speak aloud.
The enemy has taken up residence, and it’s his voice that is drowning out God’s. God calls to repentance along the path to forgiveness. The devil just holds us in the bottleneck of accusing. There is no progression to reconciliation. Again and again, he accuses. His voice, if we let it, grows so loud that we can’t hear our own, and we certainly can’t hear God’s. All we can hear are the dark lies of the serpent.
The light is on for us.
In the quiet of the confessional, we speak aloud the fruits of our genuine examinations of conscience. Then we hear aloud the words of His forgiveness. Forgiven. Finished.
Stop the internal conversation. The things which are truly sins have been forgiven by the Savior on the cross. The rest of that incessant babble in our heads? The accusations that tell us we aren’t good enough for God? Not sins at all. Those are the words of the devil.
Fresh from the confessional, we replace those words with His word.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (1 Cor 5:17-21)
Every time the evil one hisses lies inside our heads, we square our shoulders and speak confidently, “I am a new creation.” Every time, until it fills the spaces where the lies once festered.
And the silence of Christ’s peace will be our Easter joy.