One of my favorite spring moments is the first time we open our windows. Winter’s chill has laid siege to our home for months, and we’ve responded by barricading ourselves within the airtight walls of our warm home. But by spring those same reassuring walls come to possess the persona of prison. Then, just as we can stand it no longer, we throw the windows wide, welcoming the fresh air of budding flowers that comes billowing in. I like to think I can almost see it expelling the stale, recycled air we have been breathing and re-breathing throughout the long, dark winter.
Lent (the 6 week period leading up to Easter) is a lot like spring. Spring ushers fresh air to our neighborhood and home, but Lent provides the opportunity to inhale the fresh air of the Kingdom of God.
For centuries, Christians have understood that our walk of faith can too often descend into the doldrums of stale boredom. The monotony of everyday life often trickles over into our faith, and we find ourselves praying with the same passion we devote to flossing our teeth. With our flawed humanity in mind, Lent has served for centuries as a journey with two destinations: the foot of the cross and the empty tomb.
The ancient ones quickly grasped how much our soul craves the awful celebration that stems from these twin events–they realized we need far more than a three-day weekend to ponder their weighty magnitude.
We need more than three days to ponder that salvation is more than simply professing a correct doctrine. Lent prepares us for Easter the same way Advent prepares us for Christmas. We need more than three days to grasp that salvation is the gift of forgiveness and new life. The 40 (or 46) days of Lent are a tangible expression of our human life pulsating with the Divine. You see, Lent is our expression of the miracle of regeneration, enabling us to put words to action; to act in accordance with the Word.
Lent is our way of opening the windows after the long, dark winter. Lent is our action of inhaling the reality of the Kingdom–of filling our lungs with the reality that heaven is actually in charge, here and now.
As we turn our face towards the dual destinations of Lent, we build our journey around two central cores: the first is penitence for our sin and an awareness of our own mortality, but as Lent progresses they both give way to celebration of Life. Sadly, Lent has been misconstrued of late, alternately portrayed as legalistic, obsolete, or an insignificant pass on candy. But when practiced wholeheartedly, Lent is earnest worship, relevant, and deeply sacrificial.
I plan to post some practical suggestions in the next day or so, but for now, a simple question will suffice: what can you do for the next 6 weeks to open the windows of your soul?
What will you do to remind yourself of the awful consequence of your own sin, and the glorious gift divine Life?