I’ve made slight adjustments to make this more personal. It was intened as a confession, not a sermon.
Lent: it’s not just about repenting. It’s also my gateway for: Reflecting – Recounting – Releasing – Receiving – Restoring – Redeeming – Rejoicing and Reconnecting.
Lent conveniently marks the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, the season of rejuvenation. A time that ushers in excitement of anticipated regrowth, new beginnings, the start of baseball and rush to the NHL playoffs. But my appreciation for the richness of Lent has grown deeper in recent years as I’ve absorbed my own failings and transgressions and witnessed parts of our world marked by anguish and despair.
Lent is associated with repentance — a letting go of sins or behaviors that cause a contrite conscience to alter course beyond a superficial repeal and replace. It goes much deeper and is a natural and healthy part of seasonal and spiritual renewal. Lent literally means to soften and make less severe and reduce the pressure. It is about recounting and reflecting — taking inventory of who I am, what I’ve done and how I’ve treated others.
When I relinquish things, my unhealthy baggage that’s piled up is more easily revealed as is the healthy baggage that I’ve neglected. Releasing and letting go then frees me up and provides the space to receive better alternatives or more fully appreciate what I already have — often the gifts I’ve taken for granted. Releasing my tight grip also allows me to reassess, refocus and reprioritize. Maybe even reposition myself by returning to God to mirror how he is always turned to me.
As the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday symbolically reveals my need to take stock and review my inner inventory. And, like Spring Cleaning, I often need to release a lot of it. Just let it go. The mark of ashen forehead crosses also serves as a reminder of the remarkable ways God made me, reveals himself and reclaims me. Daily.
Lent kicks off Easter, where Jesus was rejected, resurrected, returned and revealed himself fully as the true redeemer. To the young and naive, the repentance associated with Lent seems loaded with harsh and fearful sacrifice. But, especially as I grow older and my inner inventories swell, it is a minor discomfort that actually binds me closer to God. That is actually a joyful notion worth sprinting toward despite the thorn in my side or limp in my gait.
True suffering reveals what nothing else can — truths about myself and my world. But suffering also reveals the depths from which I can be reclaimed and redeemed. With clearer eyes from a repentant heart I can then more clearly see God’s love and desire to reconnect with me no matter what. Thankfully, that is something about which I’ve found God to be absolutely, tenaciously and wonderfully unrelenting.