Turn to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful – Joel 2:18
The God who made us, loves us. He knows every sub-atom of our being. He knows every neuron of suppressed resentment. Every synapse of reflexive anger. Every endorphin of vanity and pride. He knows our guilt and our grief; our rage and our lust. But he knows more than the machinery. He knows what will make us happy. That’s why, through the Church, he gave us the great gift of Lent.
Happiness and Lent are not two words we normally link together. Lent is portrayed as a downer. Ash Wednesday is our hangover from a life of Mardi gras. But the God who made us, knows that for even the most blessed and pious, our mortal lives will never be an endless succession of triumphs. We move through life in a series of falls and resurrections, sin and repentance, breakdowns and overhauls.
In the language of Oprah and Dr. Phil, Lent is God’s own psychic health spa — a 40-day free trip to concentrated spiritual wellness. Lent is God’s quiet time for all his hyper-active, self-involved children. The price of admission? Repent!
Webster says to repent is to turn from sin. The great Father of the Church, St. Clement, tells us it is more. We not only turn away. We turn towards. We experience metanioa … literally a change of heart. Repentance throws out the guilt and the shame, the pride and the anger. Leaving room for peace and humility, forgiveness and serenity to come flooding in.
So let us embrace the gift of Lent and make the most of it. Ash Wednesday is our gateway to Lent. The smudge of ashes on the outside reminds us of our mortality. But on the inside it lightens our hearts and cleanses our souls through God’s grace and our sincere repentance.
The real repair work of Lent happens when you and God are all alone together. Best of all, there is no need to reach out, as if God was infinitely distant, floating above the clouds beyond our reach. We are always in His presence. The instant we reflect on Him, we are in communion. On the commuter train, doing chores or waiting in line, God is there with us — listening, loving — waiting to be invited in to help and to heal — assuring us that if we trust in Him, all will be well.
So let us enjoy this 40-day excursion with the Savior. All aboard for:
• 40 days of possibility – the possibility of knowing ourselves and our God a little better
• 40 days of examining priorities, finding time and space for God’s love in our lives
• 40 days of recovering mental, spiritual and physical health
• 40 days of honesty – confronting ourselves in the clear light of God’s forgiveness to purge, repent and rebuild
• 40 days of sharing our growing strength and comfort with those we love and those who need our love
• 40 days to let God know how grateful we are
• 40 days of grace that would not be ours without the gift of Lent.
Let’s collect all our worries, fears and cares. This Lent we will cast them all on the Lord. He is waiting right now… only a prayer away.
The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.