Lent is depicted as a 40-day journey, a pilgrimage into the one that we are called to be. It is a paradoxical season of pruning for growth, letting go to gain, and dying to live. It’s sometimes dark, often difficult, and usually completely disconcerting to those of us who live in this “save yourself first” “American Dream” that worships power and closes its eyes to greed and shuts its doors to need. We don’t know what to do with Lent. If we can just get through these 40 days, we can go back to life as we know it. We can go back to a life in which we are not called to give things up or look at our shortcomings or stare helplessly into death. Just 40 days…and it will all be over. And we look ahead to that.
But, alas, then we would have missed the point. Lent is not about having 40 days of good behavior. It’s not about proving that one has the willpower to give something up or take on something for 6 1/2 weeks. I don’t think it’s even about repentance, although penitence and turning are part of it. I think Lent has to do with heightening awareness of what is right there in front of us. It has to do with learning to see–really see. And the point is that that awareness doesn’t leave when we roll out the Easter lilies and allow ourselves once again to sing Alleluias. We do not return to life as usual. (At least that is the hope!) Instead, the usual changes. It takes on new meaning, new significance. It changes the way we live our life. And, more importantly, we are changed. Our eyes have been opened. These forty days are not temporary. Rather, they are a journey to another place (or maybe to the place where we are!). And at the end of the journey, at the end of all we know, when we have lost all that we have built, all that we have counted on, and all with which we are comfortable–it is then that the dawn will break and we will see it all.
Lent is not about teaching us to live for 40 days; it is about teaching us to live. It is about opening our eyes and allowing us to see for the first time that we are not journeying toward God; rather, we are journeying into an awareness of the God who is already here and an awareness of the person that God has already created within us. Truth be told, it is never over.
And yet, I tend to move pretty fast through life. I drive too fast, I pack my calendar too full, and I probably miss a lot of what is going on. It’s hard to be fully aware when you’re speeding down the road. Maybe Lent’s darkness is meant to slow us down, is meant to make us work to see, is meant to hone our other senses so that we can truly see in every way. This is not life as usual. Maybe we need to slow down and look at what is going by.
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,