(Artwork: “Path to the Cross” by Kate Robertson)
Those who live by the church’s way of measuring time now find themselves in the six-week season known as Lent.
The word “Lent” is a derivative of an old Anglo-Saxon word (“lencten”) which simply means “springtime.” There is nothing automatically holy about the season of Lent. When Christ-followers approach it attentively and prayerfully, however, Lent can become a spiritual journey alongside Jesus into a more intimate engagement with the Divine Heart.
Some people “give up” something for Lent in order to practice the kind of sacrifice that might inspire a fresh attentiveness to deeper things. Other people “take up” something for Lent—a new spiritual discipline or a particular act of ministry—in order to intensify their spiritual focus.
For me, Lent has always been, among other things, a time to receive more deeply the Holy Spirit’s gracious invitation to become more fully who God created me to be. The church calls this the work of repentance.
Truth be told, it saddens me when I think about how frequently I reduce repentance to drudgery—a joyless rhythm of “try and fail” that generates more dread than hope, more shame than freedom. Jesus had to have something better than that in mind when he invited us to “repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15).
Maybe Jesus is asking us to see that repentance, when understood as God’s accomplishment rather than ours, can become a beautiful rehearsal of the kind of life in which Jesus creatively reconfigures the way we relate to our various distortions.
Maybe Jesus is asking us to believe that, in the walk of repentance, he actually comes alongside us as an advocate in our places of struggle, so that he might patiently and mercifully guide us away from our self-righteous or self-indulgent fixations and toward the things he values and offers.
Such repentance is not an event but a way of life—not a solitary prayer but a liberating pilgrimage of joyful deliverance.
…giving something up…
…taking something up…
…walking more watchfully alongside Jesus and being undone by his scandalous grace.
My prayer is that those of you who observe Lent will experience the next several weeks as an energizing realignment—a vibrant reawakening to the vitality of a Christwardly-surrendered life.
May it be so.