Since coming back to the church, Lent has always been my favorite spiritual season. I really did not understand Lent during my childhood church experience; which meant that I did not have a lot to draw on that first couple of years back in church. But I don’t know, maybe that was a good thing, because it motivated me to pursue its meaning at a much deeper level. I remember my first season of Lent, and giving something up because that was what everyone else was doing. I thought it was all about making a sacrifice, and I wanted to impress God by going all out; so I gave up television. Although my intentions were a little misguided, it actually turned out to be a good thing that I gave up television; because it was in fact a huge obstacle between myself and God. As I went through that first 40 days of my “sacrifice,” I began to see just how much time I had been investing in television and how much richer my time had become as I spent more of it with God. In fact, long before my 40 days were up it became clear to me that it was not a sacrifice at all but rather a gift, and it was well beyond that 40 day time period before I turned my television back on. So every year after that, whenever it was time to think about what I would be giving up for Lent, I would always ask myself, what is the biggest obstacle standing between myself and God? Because whatever it is, if it is standing between me and God, it has become an idol. It is an ugly truth; but it is the truth, and Lent is the time for revealing ugly truths. Sadly, every year, I still always manage to come up with something that is standing in the way.
The 40 day period of Lent is a way of remembering and experiencing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. Fasting, or giving up something during Lent, mirrors Jesus’ fast during that time; and it helps us enter into a period of contemplation and deep reflection as we encounter our own demons of temptation. It is a time of surrender, of consciously encountering God and confessing, not my will, but thy will be done. It is a way of turning the ground of our souls after a long winter and preparing the soil for a springtime planting so that God may plant and cultivate good healthy seeds that we too may become agents of God’s grace and love in the world. The journey of Lent is a long one that takes a lot of work and commitment, but at the end of the road waits the empty tomb and our souls become filled with joy and hope as we realize that sin and death have been overcome. May your Lenten journey be filled with rich discoveries and many blessings.