This Wednesday is the beginning of the Church’s observance of the Lenten season.
I was raised in a home that had no religious underpinnings and in our own church tradition we have not routinely embraced observance of the Church calendar. What I am saying is…observing Lent is new to me.
One thing, however, that becomes apparent even to those like me who are not fully familiar with Lent is that it seems to center around the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” That’s probably a fine question but then I wonder the reason behind it. It is interesting that Lent comes in the springtime when all things are made new, when all of creation pushes back the darkness of winter and is restored to new life. Lent centers around this same kind of rhythm, confronting the spiritual darkness that has unknowingly settled in our soul and returning to and being restored by God in a fresh way. It’s a time of self-examination, repentance and confession to those things which have imperceptibly attached themselves to our lives to be recognized, confronted and forgiven. So what we finally discover is…Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation.
It is also a time for “spring cleaning.” I don’t know about you but in my house that usually means clearing out the junk that has accumulated over the past year. Telling the truth about our messy house is the essence of repentance. In the same way, we look to God to expose those places in our hearts that have become cluttered with things that would distract us from what is most needed in our life with God. That’s where the “giving up” come in where we intentionally enter in to a discipline of clearing out something that has put our soul in a state of disarray.
In this way, Lent becomes not an obligation but an opportunity to start again. It is the moment when we say yes once more to the call of Jesus to the disciples, “Come and see” (John 1:39). It is the act of beginning our spiritual life all over again refreshed and reoriented.