What is Lent? What does it mean for my soul?
Those are the questions I’ve been assigned to answer as part of another church’s Lenten series, and the ones I’ve been pulling apart, string by string, for the last few weeks in preparation.
Lent is of course the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. But more than just a chronological mark off of dates, Lent provides me an opportunity to be introspective, to consider what it means to follow Jesus daily. In the process, I find that I have a long way to go to be like Jesus, that there’s so much to learn and do to be more like him. But I also find that in the reflection, I realize that doing more and being more isn’t necessarily the only answer. To experience Lent, I need to rest in the fact that Easter happened – it’s historical. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, that Jesus would’ve died on the cross for just my sins, but because of God’s great act of love, Jesus rose again.
What’s been in the tomb won’t go back in the tomb. What happens in the tomb doesn’t stay there.
And that means that all my searching and seeking and struggling is what I need for me to grow, but the work has already been done.
I admit that I am a practiced multi-tasker. I once maxed out on my potential by (this is a true story): talking on the phone, carrying on an internet conversation, watching a movie, playing a video game, and having a snack. All at the same time.
But the thing is, I don’t remember what the movie was, I had to keep repeating what the person said back to me, and I’m pretty sure I lost the video game. But it was a good snack, right?
Too often, life can be like that – a lot of motion and very little payoff. Lent is the season of the year where I try to remember to slow down. (I’d love to say I do that at Advent, but I’m a pastor and who am I kidding?) Lent reminds me that the Jesus came so we could have abundant life here and now, and forever.
Lent reminds me that Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Come to me, says Jesus, I’ll give you rest. I’ll give you a break. I’ll give you what you need.
To everyone who’s lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
When you said goodbye
And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keepin’ you back from your life
You believe that there’s nothing
And there is no one who can make it right
There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary
And love for the broken hearts
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus — “Cry Out To Jesus”, Third Day
Those words remind me in song that we all have reasons to be beaten down, to be held back, to have bad days. And Jesus is the answer to the question. For me, Lent reminds me to go back to the source.
I was told I should share two things I do that are helpful for me at Lent. I’ll share and old one and a new one.
The old one is that I like to drive around with no music on, no phone conversation. My father-in-law never listens to the radio; I listen to it all the time! Sports talk radio, music, you name it. Or I can slide into using my commute to get work calls done on the phone. Especially during Lent, I like to turn everything off and just drive. And listen. Sometimes, the quiet is the place where I’m most amazed what God will say. If I’ll just shut up and listen.
The new one is one I read about in an article. An experienced pastor, maybe even a bishop, said that every year, they bought a new Bible. Now, there are Bibles and Bibles and Bibles in Christian book stores. They’ve marketed them down to the Southern hunter who prefers barbecue and only hunts with knitting needles. Christian sales know how to get you! But the pastor said that they bought a new Bible, and often a new translation, because it helped them read it in a whole new way.
I don’t have an eidetic memory like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory but I’ve read the Bible since I was a little kid, and I can kind of gloss over parts. So I thought this new idea was worth trying. And I decided I’d write about what I was reading. So once or twice a week, I’ve been writing about what I discover as I read the Bible “new,” and sometimes, folks even respond on my blog about what I’ve written. Reading the Bible in a new way let’s me hear God “fresh.”
So there’s my Lenten reflection: I think Lent slows us down and reminds us that Jesus calls to follow, to embrace the life of the disciple. I think a little silence goes along way, and having new eyes to see the wonders of God, helps too.