Cliff and I run a bimonthly Community Group for Metro. It’s a daytime group and consists of what Emily Jessee once referred to as “Seasoned Saints”. When I was teaching middle and high school students, I often wondered who was teaching who. It is the same with this group. Though Cliff and I are the designated “leaders” more often than not it is the people in our group that lead by example and by obedience.
This past meeting, we asked members of the group to bring something, a story, a testimony, a prayer request, anything that they felt led to share. This story was one of those shared. It is the testimony of a little boy named Levi. He is the grandson of Dan and Karen O’Brien-Mazza, members of Metro. It was written by, Jeanne Harrison, the wife of another leader who has also learned by the people she “leads” and it is beautiful. I knew as soon as I heard it that it needed to be shared, especially as we enter this Lenten season. I hope you enjoy it…
“The year he was diagnosed with leukemia, Levi started sitting on his dad’s shoulders. Every Sunday I watch them walk into church – Pete down below, quietly unassuming, and four-year-old Levi bobbing along above. They’ve been doing it for over a year now. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s still painful for Levi to walk. (Not walking was part of what led to his diagnosis in December of 2020.) Maybe it protects his fragile immune system by keeping him naturally distanced from others. Maybe Levi just likes it.
Whatever the reason, it’s striking. I’ve carried kids on my shoulders before, and we wobble like a drunk person on stilts. But not Pete and Levi. They move in tandem, as if they’re one person, each completely at ease with the other…
As we approach the Lenten season, I can’t think of a better visual. Rest. Relationship. Trust. Dependence. This is the heart of Lent…Let’s be honest – for a lot of us, the real question isn’t What is Lent?, it’s Who Cares? Who has time for Lent? We’ve got book reports and marriage problems, cavities and clogged toilets. We don’t have time to “give something up,” unless it’s our sanity and that was gone months ago, right?
I get it. I really do.
If you’re the person that doesn’t have time to care about Lent, you probably need it more than anybody. I say that with contrition, not judgment, because I’m that person, too.
But there’s an opposite approach to Lent that is equally misguided. While some of us are too busy to care, others race headlong into Lent like CrossFitters, hellbent on proving we can endure more pain than anyone else. What are you giving up for Lent? Caffeine? I’m giving up food! I’m gonna juice cabbages for 40 days and only drink the broth!
Perform, achieve, compete – the reward for your rigor is God’s love.
That is not the point of Lent.
Lent is an invitation to exhale. It’s a season for slowing down and seeing Jesus in the ordinary rhythms of life. As early as the third and fourth centuries, Christians began observing the 40 day season of Lent as a means of preparing their hearts for Easter. It began on Ash Wednesday, and was a time of repentance and reflection, not for the sake of proving one’s own righteousness, but for the sake of relationship – for greater dependence on God as we live in light of His sacrifice.
When I think about Lent, I no longer picture a Bible splayed out beside cabbage juice. I picture a little boy sitting on his Dad’s shoulders – a sick boy – who despite his weakness, doesn’t fight for control or frantically try to prove himself, but instead lives out of a single reality:
Dad’s got me.
What if we lived the same way? What if those three words became more than a theological construct? What if those words were a felt reality, a tried and tested love that sustained us through every season of life?
Win or lose, succeed or fail – Dad’s got me.
Chosen or forgotten, accepted or rejected – Dad’s got me.
Broken dishwasher? Dad’s got me.
Broken heart? Dad’s got me.
Broken everything? Dad’s. Got. Me.
Much as I want to be like Levi, more often than not, I’m the squirmy kid, struggling to get down – fighting my own Dad’s protection – so I can race off on my own. Do it my way. Prove I’m enough. Establish my own righteousness.
Gosh, it’s exhausting.
Recently, I shared an early draft of this article with Levi’s mom, Kristie, and I finally found out why Levi sits on Pete’s shoulders. Kristie said that the first time Levi went under anesthesia shortly after being diagnosed, he woke up hallucinating severely. He was hysterical – tearing off his clothes and hurting everyone who tried to soothe him.
In desperation, Pete grabbed Levi and put him on his shoulders. Immediately, Levi stopped. Now, after every procedure, that’s where Levi asks to go. Same thing at church. He sits on his dad’s shoulders because that’s where he wants to be.
Where do you want to be?”
As we approach this Lenten season, I hope we can all find our place of rest, relationship, dependence and trust on our Dad’s shoulders…
Many thanks to Jeanne Harrison for kindly allowing me to share Levi’s story. I think you will agree, it is a story that needs sharing.
I had no pictures of Levi on his Dad’s shoulders, so I asked my 15 year old grandson, Jack, if he could draw me one. I think it is perfect. Thank you, Jack!
To see more of Jack’s animations you can visit his YouTube channel:
Bossco Animation Studios.
If you’d like to read Jeanne Harrison’s article in its entirety you can find it here: