The road to Easter lies ahead of us, but along the way, we’ve got a lot of growing to do-spiritually speaking. We have forty days to make this journey. Some of us may feel we know quite a bit about this forty-day space of time since a good number of us take this journey year after year, but the more we have taken it, the more we know that the steps along the way can never be predicted. We call this journey “Lent,” and although each year is different, each year also builds upon the last. Whether you are a many-time traveler of this road or a new one, I join with Christians all around the world in inviting you to set out on this annual journey.
The church season of Lent comes at the time when the days are lengthening, which is the root word from which the name Lent comes. The days are lengthening, and there is a promise of rebirth of all creation in the atmosphere. Before we can arrive at the point of rebirth, however, the road before us will take us through the desert. There is no choice in the road if we want to arrive at resurrection at the end of it. Another road might be easier to walk, but we’d end up skipping the growth that the Lenten road promises.
An active and participatory Lent leads to an Easter experience that is firsthand, as opposed to one that is simply the observance of a long-ago event. This is very important to us as individuals whose lives have been radically transformed by the events of the next ninety days. For Christians, the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day, Ascension, and Pentecost realities define who we are. The years when we are most present to these transformative events in the life of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, are the years when we come to Easter Day knowing that we have grown the most. That growth does not go away after Easter Day. It will be, from that point on, a part of our identities, and we will continue to build on it as our spiritual-beings continue to gain depth.
We are not left to ourselves to figure out the road of Lent. Our church communities provide all kinds of “roadmaps,” such as special studies, extra services, courses of meditation, and outreach activities. A lot of years, though, we find that we have a pretty good idea as to what would be most helpful for ourselves and our families. This is to say that we may well have some sense as to where we could use some growth to spiritually strengthen ourselves so that we can be more open to opportunities to become who God has created and is creating us to be.
Your Lenten path could include something as traditional as eating fish on Fridays, both because anything that contributes to your physical health makes you better able to contribute to God’s kingdom on earth and also because that has traditionally been a way of keeping ourselves mindful of the sacrifice our Lord made for us on the cross on Good Friday. It might also include something very nontraditional and tailored just to your life’s circumstances this particular year. Maybe you most need to nurture old friendships or family relationships of which you have been neglectful, or maybe this year you need to “escape” for an afternoon each week just to be quiet with God. Maybe you need to sit and read the Bible daily or several times a week because you realize you have never done that—or it has been a long time since you have—and you find you’re longing to do it, or even just intrigued with the idea of what that might be like for you. Maybe there is an activity or hobby for which you just can’t quite make time but which you really think would reveal something to you about your relationship with God. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you; there is no lack of imagination in God’s Spirit! You might be amazed how your Lent ends up!
It’s time to get started; the Lenten road beckons! May God bless you and may you take advantage of God’s blessing and find this to be one of the most meaningful Lents ever!