Returning to Lent

The past few years I have found much encouragement and growth in following the Christian calendar and keeping my thoughts and spiritual journey somewhat in line with the church seasons. The cyclical nature of the seasons, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time, have drawn me deeper and deeper into my understanding of and relationship to the Triune God. But, during the past year of pregnancy and the early months of motherhood, I found myself in a season of my own and unable to fully relate to or participate in the church seasons. In fact I didn’t even have a single thought about Advent this year until it was over – really I didn’t have a single thought about much of anything accept my dear difficult child. Today I woke up to realize that it is Ash Wednesday, and I felt suddenly like I need Lent this year. Need Lent like I have never needed it before. Lent is when we remember the time the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. Lately, I feel like I am wandering unknown territory, my own desert. Lent is also when we remember Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Lately, I feel tempted. I feel tempted to ignore God and focus solely on my immediate physical needs. I feel tempted to escapism instead of being present with where I am and what my life looks like at the moment. I feel tempted to despair and to feel like my life has no broader purpose or vision amidst the mundane of peek-a-boo and dirty dishes.

Lent is also a time of repentance and purification during which we prepare again to celebrate and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember learning that for a time in the early church Easter was the only time that they baptized new believers and Lent was for these new believers a time of preparation for baptism. Lent was a time of preparing to enter into the family of God. Eventually “older” believers began to also celebrate Lent as a time to renew their faith and commitment to the resurrection life that God offers. This year I feel this subtle historical significance of Lent. I need this. I need to come to God anew. I need a fresh start with Jesus.

Thanks to Christine Sine I recently read this quote from Joan Chittister’s book The Liturgical Year and it really spoke to me about why I need to participate in Lent yet again:

Lent is not a ritual.  It is time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out.  It is the moment when, as the baptismal waters flow on every Easter Vigil altar, we return to the baptismal font of the heart to say yes once more to the call of Jesus to the disciples, “Come and see” (John 1:39)  It is the act of beginning our spiritual life all over again refreshed and reoriented.  (111)

I want to begin my “spiritual life all over again refreshed and reoriented.” And so this Ash Wednesday I bow my head and heart and say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Come and draw me into Lent. Show me once again who you are. Teach me anew who I am. I am thirsty and weak, weary and confused. I don’t know how to listen to you. I don’t know how to speak to you. I don’t know how to follow you. I don’t know how to love you or obey you. Come, Lord. Lead me once again through the desert.

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany