Today begins Lent–a 40-day season of reflection in preparation for Easter. It’s a time for Christians who practice it to self-evaluate, to fast, and to be more intentionally focused on the life of Christ and how well His life is emulated in their own.
I always kind of dread Lent. For one, I didn’t grow up practicing it. For another, I suck at that kind of discipline. 40 days is a long time. My creativity gets antsy.
Yet, over the years I have found taking 40 days to be intentional in the way Lent requires has been incredibly helpful primarily because it makes me slow down the “spiritual machinery.” You know, the running to church. Heard the sermon–check! Sprinting through daily readings. Quiet Time–check! Squeezing in community. Life Group–check! Scribble the check to drop in the offering plate. Selflessness and Stewardship–double check! Begin again.
Lent says, “Stop. Slow down.” It asks, “Why are you doing all this stuff? If you are caught up in the movement of God, then why are you in such a hurry?”
When we read the Scriptures, looking with eyes to see who is the God of Israel, we are forced to acknowledge that God’s movement does not hear the ticking of our tyrannical clocks. Love never does.
Instead what we find is a slow, intentional, precise, God. Never sloppy. Never in a hurry. Never rushed. No wonder the infamous passage on love begins with the virtue of patience (I Cor. 13:4).
Lent is an opportunity to be drawn into the patient love of God. It’s a time to slow all the tyrants in our lives–hurry, greed, lust, discontent, ambition, rivalry. It’s a time to make some empty space in our hearts, calendars, yes, even our stomachs, so that in them God might enter the places we’ve made so full but He’s been patiently waiting to occupy.
That right there is it: Jesus entered this world “full of grace and truth” and we’ve been too full of other stuff to receive Him. Lent is a time to push to the curb all that “other stuff” and let Jesus fill us more deeply. Tyrants do not have time for grace and truth. Lent more than anything reminds us that we cannot have it all. In surrendering some of the things we think we need for life, we discover more of what it means to really live in Christ…and for Him to really live in us.
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. ~John 1:4-16
Lent is the time we say, “Enough of all this stuff that only offers emptiness; for of His fullness we have all received.”
For Lent this year I am embracing two practices as means to remember the fullness offered in Christ: Because even Lent can sound like a clanging gong if I do not have love, I will be reading Phil Ryken’s Loving the Way Jesus Loves. Secondly, because I spend so much time Indy-racing the highways and byways of Los Angeles, I am committing to an hour-long walk everyday, just as a means of s-l-o-w-i-n-g d-o-w-n and praying and listening and remembering that Jesus came and dwelled among people. He took time to stop at wells, to tell stories on hilltops, and notice others to whom He could say, “Come and see!”
The call to “Come and See” is still being offered to us today. Lent asks us to put down whatever net or excuse may be in our hands and answer, “Let’s go see what this Jesus is all about.”
If you would like to join me in either of these practices, I would love to have you along to share the journey. Let me know if you decide to read the book–I’ll make some space here for us to talk about what we’re learning…or if you’re local, we can do that real time. Plus, I already told you, I suck at this, so I will probably need 1,2, or 100 of you to make sure I finish.