Which is why I love the season of Lent. (Is it okay to love Lent?) I don’t think I’m being masochistic or a glutton for punishment. For me, it is much more than giving up chocolate or another chance to blow my New Year’s resolution and feel badly about myself. No, Lent is more than that.
This year, I find I am welcoming Lent with anticipation and a sense of relief. For I am bursting with lament. I am full of repentance. My tears overflow with grief and sorrow at the state of our nation, the condition of the church, the wrongs in our culture, the injustices of our communities and the indifference of my own heart. And I am longing for conversion. For transformation. For rebirth. That we would actually (not theoretically) become more like Christ, embodying the presence of Jesus in our neighborhoods and work places. That we would truly be a people of His Presence that live our lives in such a way that would invoke curiosity in those around us. And that we would find the face of Christ in our neighbor and in the stranger, in the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. If all I wanted for Christmas was my two front teeth, then all I want for Lent is transformation.
But what are we talking about here? What does repentance feel like? Believe me, it does not feel like that dreaded condemnation or judgment crap that we run from for dear life. No. It does not feel like the mind-numbing wash of shame or the black, heavy boulder in the pit of the stomach. No, it feels good. Like returning to a beautifully, home-cooked meal after a series of stomach-churning junk food binges. Like coming home to yourself after wandering away for so long. Like being grounded again in what is true and right after feeling fragmented and tossed in the wind. It is simply a turning toward and a turning away. It feels good in a deep, soulful way. So repentance, like Lent, is good.
Lent is an invitation to find pause in the midst of the chaos. To find silence in the midst of the noise. To rediscover what it is to be hungry. To rekindle desire. To reorder the stuff of our lives and to rid ourselves of the clutter. To return to what truly matters. For Lent is a time for reflection. It is a time for repentance. It is a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. To remember the poor. And then to become poor even as Jesus did. Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. [2 Corinthians 8:9] Lent is a time to empty ourselves of privilege, wants, desires, and comforts so that others might have them.
This is the backwards, upside down paradox of Jesus. That the first will be last and the last will be first. That we must lose our life to gain it. That we must die in order to live. And this is what the journey of Lent is about. The descending path of Jesus. Walking in the way of the cross so that we can experience the new life of the resurrection.
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? [Luke 9:23-25]
So this season of Lent, let us not run from repentance. But let us embrace this time to turn towards Jesus and to turn away from the counterfeits. Let us embrace the time to do our spring-cleaning, to consider our disordered desires, and to reorient our lives. And please, do not miss the opportunity to lament, to grieve, to fast and to pray. I hope you wore ashes and tore your clothes at least just a little. You must do so or you will inevitably implode with the residual anger and grief that builds with each insult added to injury. Yes, it will feel good. For Lent is good. Good for the soul.
by Jessica Ketola
*** Join us for a 6 week Lenten journey through the Beatitudes, Sundays 10am at The Practicing Church.