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Easter is the perfect day to end Lent because it's the day when we recall that the chains of law and death have been broken by Jesus, the one who fulfilled the law and conquered death for us. We recall it in worship, with trumpets blaring and choirs singing and (in my church, sans yours truly) dancing in the aisles. We do it after church by gathering with friends and family and eating and drinking as if gluttony were a virtue.

So for me Easter doesn't become a day when I thank God that he has made me more disciplined, not like those non-liturgical folks who don't even observe Lent. Instead, it becomes an occasion to celebrate the fact that my self-respect does not hinge on my self-discipline, and that my very lack of discipline is the paradoxical sign of the gospel. Indeed, while we were gluttons and prayerless, while we didn't give a rip about the poor, Christ died for us. It's not for the spiritually fit and healthy that he came, but for the unfit and unhealthy. We may be faithless in areas small and large, but he remains faithful through and through.

So I end this little essay by grabbing two more pieces of candy, for Ash Wednesday comes tomorrow! It will be time to give myself again to disciplines great and small. I do that partly because, in the end, it is probably better to be a little more disciplined or loving and self-righteous than undisciplined, unloving, and merely lazy. And who knows, by God's grace, I may lose track of what my left hand is doing!

But I do it mostly to prove once again the impossibility of living up to God and the gracious necessity of being down to earth, of remembering that I am dust and weak and desperately in need of a Savior. 

And recalling that I have one.

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He is author of Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Power of the Holy Spirit (Baker).


Related Elsewhere:

Previous SoulWork columns include:

Looking for Jesus in All the Wrong Places | Why do we want to see God's face when it's only going to kill us? (January 26, 2012)
Why the Bible is Not a Book of Moral Laws| Contrary to popular belief, it's the startling gift book. (January 12, 2012)
A Christmas Prayer| We, like the shepherds in the field, like the woman at the tomb, are astonished, trembling in wonder and in fear. (December 22, 2011)
SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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Giving Up Self-Discipline for Lent