The Inward/Outward Journey of Lent
Lent is a time when we are given the opportunity to reflect on the changes that we might need to make in order to be the kind of people we long to be.
It's tempting to distill the deep meaning of this season, and the journey that we undertake during these 40 days, down to something manageable like giving up chocolate, or "fasting" from Facebook.
I say "manageable," because I often struggle to truly offer up the things that are more challenging for me to let go of--even for just 40 days.
For example, once I foolishly decided to give up coffee for Lent. It was literally the hardest three days of my life... I gave up giving up coffee pretty quickly.
There's more to Lent than merely giving something up---although sometimes giving up something for Lent is helpful, especially if what we are giving up is keeping us from connecting with Jesus during this journey.
You see, our observances of Lent have both an inward and an outward component. Let me explain...
The exhortation that we see in many of the liturgies of the Church during this season to "keep a holy Lent," should be seen as an invitation to reflect on the ways in which we might be transformed in order to become transformative.
If we keep Lent by either letting go or adding things to our life merely to benefit ourselves as the end to our means, we are missing the point.
We keep Lent to identify more fully with Jesus, who showed us the practices of fasting, praying, giving, and working for justice and peace. Jesus demonstrated dramatically that these practices prepare us to be agents of transformation in a world that desperately needs to be transformed.
We keep Lent in order to know what it means to embody the kingdom of God, to bring God's shalom to bear in the broken places and empty spaces where darkness has a toehold.
Will Willimon sums it up like this:
"The needs of the world are too great, the suffering and pain too extensive, the lures of the world too seductive for us to begin to change the world unless we are changed..."As you move forward in the Lenten journey, consider what changes you need to make in your life that will enable you to be transformed.
Perhaps you will let go of a habit or of a pleasure that will help you to focus more fully on becoming more like Jesus. Or maybe you will add a practice that will further refine you and feed your soul.
And then, consider how you might leverage those changes to be a force for change in the world, and bring light where there is darkness.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.