Lent is coming up fast this year. It sort of feels like someone sped up the clock on 2023. Does anyone else feel this way?
The season of Lent comes around each year, calling us to repentance and discipline. Inviting us to prepare ourselves for the journey to the cross alongside Christ Jesus. It is set over the forty days, excluding Sundays, leading up to Easter. Forty is a number with great symbolic meaning in Scripture: it rained for forty days and nights over Noah’s boat, the Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness where they ate manna from God’s provision, Moses stayed on the mountain for forty days and nights waiting for the 10 Commandments, and Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness, which is where we take these days for Lent.
There’s another critical theme associated with forty. The theme is wilderness. Wilderness isn’t all bad. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where wilderness is often celebrated for its gifts. It is the place of wild where nature’s power is on display. A place that lacks safety and routine. Wilderness reminds us of our own mortality and smallness. It reminds us that we are not in charge or control. Sometimes I need that reminder. Being in the wilderness has also been scientifically proven to combat depression, ADHD, anxiety, and other issues.
In Scripture, wilderness is a place of testing and preparation. Not standardized tests that we must pass in order to graduate, but the sort of testing that precious metals undergo. The repeated action of burning away impurities. The sort of testing that improves us over time, not the kind that decides from the start that we aren’t good enough. This is what wilderness is about in Scripture. This is what Lent is about for us.
During this season, we walk alongside one another on the same path we walk each year. Some years we get to add new faces. Some years we mourn the ones that we’ve lost. Lent is a sort of yearly pilgrimage to the cross and onto the empty tomb.
Why do we need this test? This wilderness?
I need it because I easily forget. I lose sight of what Christ is doing in me and around me and through me. So, I return to Lent to be told the stories of Christ rejecting the temptations of power, status, and wealth and choosing servitude instead; of Christ healing those who didn’t deserve it; of Christ calling out the professional religious folks; of Christ going toward with the cross for love. And finally, to celebrate God’s triumph over death in the Resurrection.
Maybe you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the heaviness of the world or by your everyday life. Maybe you’re craving silence away from the pressures or on the other hand you’re hungry for laughter-filled rooms. Maybe you feel like you don’t measure up. Maybe you don’t see how Christ could use you. So, let’s walk this journey together.
Let us dig our feet into the sacred ground of wilderness. Let us hear these stories again because we need them. Let us be reminded that our mortal lives are blessed. Let us receive with open hands the gifts of God, who blesses us in the lives we actually have.