Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near.
-Acts 17:27 (The Message paraphrase)
Good morning, friends. As of yesterday, we have entered the season of Lent. It’s the 40 day preparation period before Easter. Some of you may not even have noticed that it’s begun, and some of you have.
Actually, that’s kind of the point.
It’s pretty easy to walk through our lives and not notice. We don’t notice where God might be because we have places to go and people to meet. We don’t notice the nonverbals of those around us who are having a tough time of it. And interestingly, we don’t notice what’s happening in the deep places within our own hearts and minds due to distraction.
I’ve come to the conclusion that lent is really about awareness.
If we are unaware of what’s within us, we can’t possibly open those places to Jesus.
I have a child who deals with anxiety that comes in intense waves. It’s been alright, even when we moved into a new house last week, but last night was the night before the new bus ride and everything rose to the surface. The problem was that our increasingly independent offspring wasn’t aware (or willing to admit) that this was the issue. So it was expressed in major problems with homework, with siblings, with bedtime, etc. That happens a lot. One thing is THE thing, but a lack of awareness projects that struggle into many unrelated areas.
We do that as adults, too. We walk through our lives unaware of our own internal worlds, or unable to face our struggles head on. We ignore our frailty and live as if we are machines. Or we ignore our potential and live as if we are failures. But it affects everything.
Lent is when we find the spiritual place within ourselves to identify with the frail and powerful Jesus, and when we invite Jesus to identify with our frail and powerful humanity.
We are broken people in need of a savior.
We are also Spirit-indwelled disciples who are capable of ongoing transformation.
Lent is a chance to be honest about our need, but also to trust that with Jesus, we can be transformed.
Lent comes from the Latin word for fortieth which is also where we get the word quarantine. Centuries ago, people caught in sin would be quarantined from the church - removed for a time of purification in preparation for the major celebration of the year, Easter. That might seem harsh to us, but there was purpose in an intentional time to lean on Jesus in the wilderness. Soon, others in the church began to honestly say, "we are in need of a time of renewal too, for we all sin!" They began walking alongside the quarantined brothers and sisters, and the church eventually adopted a church-wide season of reflection, trust, and transformation. Together, they walked in honesty and frailty with Jesus, so that they were able to fully celebrate the hope and joy of resurrection. To experience the fullness of life, we must become aware of the deadness in us. We have to become aware of our need in order to allow Jesus to meet it.
Lent is not a New Years Resolution: Part Two for people. Sometimes people give things up so that they can conquer a vice or become healthier. Let's go deeper.
Instead, whether you give something up or not, I want to encourage you to take the time to embrace quarantine. Find time to yourself, find time for meaningful spiritual conversations away from the busyness of the approaching spring. Get away with Jesus and become aware of what is deep within you. Choose to embrace your need for God, but also choose to trust God in new transformative ways. Become aware.
Lent is not a self-improvement project. It’s a journey with Jesus in a fresh way. It will indeed leave us changed, but the goal is more of Jesus, not simply a better version of ourselves.
The pressure is off. You have a companion inviting you to dive a little deeper into the type of life that is possible- where joy and beauty live together with pain and frailty, yet always full of hope.
Embrace lent this year by getting away with Jesus. He’s not remote; he’s near.
It’s worth the effort.
Jesus, open my spirit to new levels of honesty and trust with you today, so that I can reflect your image.