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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 kick-off “Rescued,” our third series in Romans, and we approach the Lenten season, I can’t think of a better visual. Rest. Relationship. Trust. Dependence. This is what it means to be rescued. This is the heart of Lent. 

Two Wrong Approaches to 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 who 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’s 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!

I met a lot of these types in Bible College, and they’re an intimidating bunch. Back then, I saw their self-discipline as admirably unattainable, like a degree of godliness I could never quite reach. But now, I see something else. I see a terrible lie that may have been simmering beneath the surface all along: Perform, achieve, compete – the reward for your rigor is God’s love. 

That’s not the point of Lent. 

What is 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 (March 2nd this year), 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 they 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. 

Rescue in the Book of Romans

Such a perspective only comes by way of surrender. Romans 10:3 says, “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Have you ever tried to rescue someone who didn’t want to be rescued? Who rejected every morsel of wisdom? Bucked against any vestige of authority? 

Rescue requires submission. 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?

To learn more about Lent or download our free 2022 Lent Guide, visit


  • Avatar Andrea Worsham says:

    Thank you for sharing this amazing perspective. I wish I could get ring tones for my phone that were some of the phrases that MIke says – You are a beautiful daughter of God – or God’s got me just as reminders. They give me comfort and sometimes bring me to tears as that is often now how I see myself. Appreciate you sharing this story – and the reminders that God does have me.

  • Avatar Ariel says:

    Love this so much. I adore seeing Levi on Pete’s shoulders… now it’ll mean even more. Dad’s got me. 😭

  • Avatar Barbara O Brien says:

    This is beautiful Truly makes one examine their thoughts and life. This child of God can teach us all

  • Avatar Mary says:

    Thank you, Jeanne, for this reminder of where I want to be.

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