In this rush about, text-crazy, isolated, and often depressed and angry world we live in, the call to come away for a time to hear a different voice and find a different rhythm can be the most refreshing, life-reordering time.
That’s what Lent should be.
Lent counters everything we did at Christmas to celebrate. It invites us to quiet. It pulls us into reflection. It gives us time to renew our Christian vows. It compels us to allow what Christ did for us on the cross to be realized in every part of our life.
Lent actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means spring. My good friend Mel Shoemaker, who left this world too soon this past year, opened that meaning up for me in his Lenten devotions Springtime for the Soul.
Doesn’t that sound like something you long for? Buds of new growth that burst with color and life. Hope that comes from something other than well-ordered circumstances. Life that you don’t invent but respond to.
Lent lasts just forty days. Like the forty days of wilderness where Jesus was tempted, the forty days of ark travel during the flood, the forty days Moses met with God on Mt Sinai and received the Ten Commandments, or the forty days the Israelite spies investigated the Promised Land; forty days is long enough to become more focused, receptive, and obedient.
Practicing Lent is both a personal and corporate activity. Take your whole self into these forty days, every fear, every way your past beats you down, every unmet goal, every grief, every secret. Hear the words of Jesus who went to the cross for you, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mathew 11:28)
Practicing these forty days of preparation involves:
This is not self-recrimination or putting ourselves down. This is about going to scripture as our magnifying glass to see our attitudes, priorities, life pursuits from God’s perspective only. Confess the gaps, the ignorance, or the ways you have not been listening.
Repentance involves a directional change.One way to think about repentance during
Lent, is to turn around and face the cross. Repentance agrees with God about anything He says needs to change. You turn toward His purpose and empowerment.
Choose one excess to give up. It could be any self-centered, time-drain that gives you space to hear Jesus’ invitation to “Come away.” This is fasting to train your spiritual muscles to say “no” to something so you can say “yes” to being present and listening. Prayer should be nothing less.
Follow Jesus’ ministry model.Reach out to someone who is suffering. Be generous to
someone who struggles to make ends meet. Volunteer in a new way in your church or community. As you connect with the heart of Jesus, you will see more needs.
Lent may be the most important time to make sure you return to God’s design for sabbath rest. Use sabbath to renew your soul. Journal. Read. Study through one of the Gospels. Connect with people who inspire you to discipleship.It’s your day to walk in the garden with your God. Don’t miss it.
I will be offering two Lent devotionals for each week of Lent. I’m calling this series “The Way to the Cross.” I will send one for Sunday, which will arrive in your inbox on Saturday. The other one will come as usual, on Wednesday, to give you middle-of-the-week focus.
We need this time. No matter how you decide to participate in these forty days of Lent, make it about an intimate exchange with Jesus. It’s His invitation that will change your life.