It is Lent, a season in the liturgical Christian year in which we walk with Christ in the final days of His ministry in His human form. It is a season of 40 days duration, not counting Sundays and as it closes we celebrate Easter. During this time the eruptions of Hallelujah are laid aside as we fast and devote ourselves to other spiritual disciplines.
It has always seemed a sad, gray, lifeless time to me. The hymns sung at church are “low” both in spirit and in note to this soprano, or so it has seemed. I miss my shouts of hallelujah and the many joyful and lively hymns as we, it has always seemed, focus on “from dust thou art.” It has always seemed to me that to focus on death, which has always appeared to me to be the theme of Lent, is just wrong.
Is not the Kingdom of God at hand?
Has Christ not already won for me Eternal Life?
Yes, those two things are true. Why then lament and focus on not life but death? As I walk my path with Jesus everyday and as I sometimes climb the mountain with Him, His joy is always within me even on those days I cannot feel my joy. My faith tells me it is within me. His peace and His joy are a gift and I own them but like other sorts of gifts . . . the forgotten sweater . . . what has been given to me sometimes slips from focus temporarily. Am I in Lent being encouraged to look at death and not at life?
As I sat, knelt, and stood in church today for our Ash Wednesday Eucharist, I realized that I didn’t feel low. There was no music, lively or low-key. There were no excited shouts of acclamation, and the “h” word wasn’t spoken. I, though, was not feeling low, gray, and down in spirit. It seemed to me that rather than flooded with guilt at my human failures, and rather than missing the emotional high of a view from the mountaintop, I felt REALLY GOOD. How is this possible? What has changed in me?
I have recently, after a long time of searching, found a part-time job. No, it’s not the full-time one my unpaid bills require, and no it’s not fancy and of a sort which magazine covers rave about. It is, however, a new start and a part of the Lord’s plan for my life even if I cannot see how. My heart and soul know this. Today, my day off, though is not a day of wallowing in all the job is not. It is not a day to waste thinking of “I should be working today.” It is a day of focusing on other things which are also valuable to my life in Christ. It is a day of more restful things as well. It is a day in which my aching feet are rested and revitalized for days soon to be upon when I am again running about on hard cement floors for hours doing physical work with a smile even if my feet begin to hurt, and even if I burn my fingers taking out a hot baking sheet of cookies . . . today is a restful day. Not a day for napping, but a day to refocus and recharge. These things are as necessary and all the running around the kitchen and dining room at my job. I will be better able to do what is to come later if I prepare now!
Ultimately, isn’t that what Lent can be said to be all about? Is it not a time to reflect on my humanness and His love and mercy? Is it not a time rest . . . carry the cross with Him, yes, but also to curl up at His feet and realize His amazing love as fully revealed to us as He, bloodied and beaten, carried a heavy cross on which He knew He’d be crucified? Was He showing anger? Was He calling upon Father God to “get me out of this mess” and going after those who did this to Him? No, He did not. As He bled for them and for us, He spoke love and forgiveness. So, during this quieter time in the Liturgical year, in terms of shouts of hallelujah and singing lively music, I will rest from those things as I curl up with my Jesus and listen to Him. I will learn how I shall find the strength to carry my cross. I will learn how I am to love my enemies as He did. I will learn what He has next for me to do to reflect His love on others. It will be a different season from the last, but I will feel His love and I will learn to love Him even more. Join me, won’t you? Amen.