Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thoughts on Lent

I've always considered Lent (and advent as well) as something for Catholics. Something Catholics "do". Yes, I've fasted from things and avoided meats on Fridays... But somehow it was all outward to me. These were simply actions that I took. Motions that I went though. However, after a few years of dismissing the whole idea of the Lenten season, God has been educating me on what Lent can (and should) mean to me.

What He's been showing me is that Lent should be a time of reflection. Not just the sit-down-and-think-out-it type of reflection, but also the letting my outward surroundings and choices remind me of this season. I, for one, need lots of reminders because I am hopelessly distracted. But a great reminder to me lately has been the outdoors, the weather even. The trees are bare. There are old, rotted leaves still bustling around in the breeze, all broken and crinkly. And despite the warmer temps this year, there is a bitterness in the wind. All signs of of the deadness of winter. But alas, the spring and summer are coming! Little green sprouts are popping up. The warmth of the sun is penetrating the ground and warming our bones. The Lord has allowed me to be reminded of His suffering and death, yet the redemption and hope that is coming. And all through His creation. So simple yet so amazing that the earth itself tells God's story, if we are willing to listen. To notice.

My house is also looking pretty bare-bones these days. No flowers or seasonal decor. I long to put some colorful, speckled eggs in a vase, but the sparseness reminds me of these 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent preparing for his death. There will be a time for celebrating and a time to decorate accordingly, but I need the visual reminder. How forgetful am I. How fickle my faith.

Did you know that the word lent comes from a Saxon word that originally meant "length" and was used to denote springtime? Seems appropriate enough as our days are lengthening how it sometimes seems like it takes spring forever to arrive! Bobby Gross provided me with that fun fact in his book "Living the Christian Year". It has given me some great perspective on Lent. In it he says, "Each year the season of Lent asks us to embrace a spiritual gravity, and downward movement of soul, a turning from our self-sufficiency and sinfulness. In such quiet turning, we are humbled and thus made ready to receive from God a fresh and joyous grace.... And while we usually don't put ourselves in a desolate environment for forty days, we can choose a posture of humility and undertake practices that sharpen our spiritual awareness."

Spiritual awareness. I like that. Lord, help me to be aware of who you are and what you have done, especially during this time of remembrance. Boy do I need reminders. Thanks for all you have done. All you are doing. And all you have yet to do.