A four-minute read
“Each year, around the latter part of winter, Lent arrives. It nearly always surprises me. Here it is, once again, summoning me to change how I typically live.” — W. David O. Taylor
Why should I bother changing the way I live? Isn’t life hard enough? I’m just trying to get along after all. Coping with lockdown and separation. Wondering when the sun will return, and the air will warm, and I can hug you again.
The good news in all this madness is that Lent is coming.
Lent is yet another reminder that what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas but what happens on earth doesn’t stay on earth. We get to take it with us on judgment day.
It’s difficult to have an eternal perspective when death, dead-ends, poverty, moral failure and other evils seem to trump every card I play. My theology gives out on me sometimes when Perceived Life (what you probably think of as ‘Real Life’) seems to have the advantage.
What is actually Real Life is something much more than this Perceived Life in which I’m trapped. What I see in front of me is temporary, but the things I don’t see, the things I have faith in, are eternal.1
That’s why I need Lent. It’s a reset, where I turn my attention back to those few things that are truly important. The journey is simple and traditional. Traditional Lenten observance means prayer and repentance, fasting and almsgiving. These three things reconnect me with God’s heart.2
Lent is a journey. And, when I take a journey, I need to pack, and check the map to see what might be in my way.
That’s easy to see. It’s the same old rubbish: Pride, self-sufficiency, dishonorable thoughts, judgmentalism, greed, among others.3
‘Wait a minute’, you might say, ‘I thought your Christian faith says “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.” 4 Don’t you have this thing licked?
You are correct about the first part, but not about the second part. The Bible also refreshingly points out that I’ll face temptation. And, I’ll suffer. I’ll feel like falling down. I’ll feel like giving up. It’s a giant Free Will Problem. Whether I stand or fall is up to me. Fortunately, I have supernatural help.
Jesus said ‘In the world (Perceived Life) you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’ 5 There’s that Real Life I mentioned earlier. The one I can’t see, but which bears me up when I stumble. It’s His life.
How do connect with it? That’s where prayer, fasting and almsgiving come in. I’ll be engaged in all three between Ash Wednesday (17 February) and Easter (4 April), and that will guide my writing journey the next 7 ½ weeks. You are welcome to come along.
I’m not telling you these things to boast, rather to set a backdrop against which you can view an unfolding story. After all, even a superficial study of Matthew 6 shows that Jesus says we should do all these things in secret.6
And I will. It’s just that, since Jesus expects it, and I follow Him, it’s probably not so secret then that I might choose to do these things.
Just to be clear. Lenten practices are not about earning some sort of favor or to make up for whatever rotten stuff I’ve done. Only Jesus’ sacrifice pays for any of that. Jesus alone.7
Lent is not about punishment. It’s not about self-denial either. It’s about emptying myself out so I can be filled afresh. So I can stuff myself with His goodness.
It’s about sharpening my senses. It’s about building a better relationship with God.
Here’s a metaphor. Because the church is described by some as the bride of Christ and the Lord as the bridegroom,8 think of Lent as a marriage retreat.
Or perhaps, a honeymoon.
1. 2 Corinthians 4:18
2. See Isaiah 58-60 for a discussion of this concept
3. Galatians 6:19-21
4. Galatians 6:24
5. John 16:33
6. Matthew 6:3-6, 17
7. Matthew 8:17, Romans 4:25
8. There’s an excellent discussion of this at the Berean Bible Society. I use the metaphor here just as a literary device. It’s a secondary issue and I won’t argue with anyone about it.
Photo by Jonathan Borba via Pexels