“O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again.” Henri Noumen. Does Lent carry a special place in your heart? Do you yearn for it? Or is Ash Wednesday just another day which surprises you each year and doesn’t have much meaning?
Some years I feel growth during Lent. Some years I don’t. It’s hard to willingly enter the desert. It’s hard to actively face the areas in my life where I need to grow. I recall a certain year where I had all kinds of plans. This particular Lent I felt frustrated immediately. Ash Wednesday instantly felt like a shipwreck. The kids fought all day long and all my good intentions dwindled quickly. What’s the purpose? Yet, I’ve learned that my good intentions do matter. Entering the desert with Jesus is a purposeful time of growth even if all our plans don’t look exactly as we hoped.
There’s a reason why I grow a bit weary this time each year. It is March and my heart starts yearning for spring. My tired soul is finished with windy winter days, barren trees, and early darkness which hovers the skies by early evening. I long for the budding of colorful flowers and aromatic scented trees, and the song of birds chirping. Lent approaches when my heart is longing for personal change as well as change in the wider world.
The stretch of 40 days of deeper prayer and yearning culminates with Easter joy (spring in full bloom). The very thing our hearts long for.
As Christians, we certainly pray, discern, ask questions, and grow in relationship with Christ year round because that’s the purpose of our lives. It’s our calling. Yet, Lent allows for deeper reflection, revelation, and possibly rectitude. It’s easy to overlook this time as unnecessary, yet Jesus bid it not only necessary, but highly beneficial.
In scripture we encounter the love story when we intentionally place ourselves in His presence. In a world which clamors for our attention, Jesus calls us to step away for a time to focus only on Him. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14, RSV).
Jesus also encounters the struggle that prevails in the desert, yet to come out glorious on the other side. As Christains, it’s easy to hide from the desert. We don’t like discomfort.Yet, we can trust that growth happens with Jesus as our example. Jesus endured and conquered the temptation of Satan in the desert.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4 RSV)
Lent is an opportunity, an invitation to enter more deeply into relationship with Christ. As we remember Christ’s sacrifice and relentless love for us, we can gather courage to allow Him into the dark corners of our lives. He will bring light.
“Jesus conquers the darkness of the desert so as to one day emerge into the light of the Resurrection; Lent is an invitation for us to accompany him on that journey.”
– Allison DeBoer
Let us enter into the journey of Lent while we yearn for Easter. Easter is the fulfillment and hope of our time in the desert, and a perfect example of our pilgrimage through this life. Fully entering into Lent (our personal desert) often reveals a longing for Easter (and heaven), which might plant seeds of change in our world.
We know life is not perfect on earth. Heaven will be.
How can we enter more deeply into our faith and relationship with Christ this Lenten season? We can always make tiny sacrifices and let go of attachments. We can also spend more time in prayer, quiet, and service. The Church recommends prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What will you do? Remember to keep it simple allowing Christ to work in and through you during this season of yearning.