Reimagining Lent

– Andy Wade –

a.alter.1.1Lent is often thought of as a dark, introspective season. Voluntarily I give up, for a season, some part of my life to help me focus on “the journey”. Perhaps it’s chocolate, or coffee, or Facebook, or dining out. Multiple Lenten seasons I’ve participated in this way… and it’s been helpful. But this year I sensed a call in a different direction.

Going back to the roots of Lent, we discover that it was a season for new Christians to be intentionally discipled in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday. For others it was a season to reflect and prepare to renew their baptismal vows. This season makes time for a serious look inside, facing our inner brokenness and changing our ways (in church lingo, repenting from sin).

This is also a season to seriously meditate on the journey of Jesus toward the cross – his complete abandonment to the plan and purposes of God, which ultimately led to his death on the cross. To ponder the weight of the world’s sin and brokenness that Jesus carried, my sin and brokenness that Jesus carried, to the cross should indeed be a deep and life-changing venture.

Some would argue that we no longer need to focus on this, that now it’s all about the resurrection and life, and to focus on the cross and sin and death is too negative and even demeans the point of Jesus’ resurrection. And yet we journey. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that life is still broken and full of sin, even as the promise of new life and resurrection is held out to everyone who would receive it.

As I prepared my heart for this season of Lent, I found myself wrestling with what it’s really all about. So often I give up something or change some element of life for the season which does help my focus, but then I pick it back up… coffee, chocolate, Facebook… and enter the season of Easter feeling more spiritual – but not really changed.

So this year I began wondering how Lent could truly become a season of transformation. If Lent is a season to prepare for baptism or the renewal of my baptismal vows, what does that mean? If it’s all pointing to new life in Christ, shouldn’t my life be changed, not just reflected on? So I’ve kind of turned Lent inside out, looking more at what I’m challenged by Jesus to live into. It’s not just the resurrection, it’s all about new life that embraces the reign of God.

  • How do I live into the shalom of God in ways that bring about healing, hope, justice, reconciliation, and love?
  • Where am I already living into this new reality of God’s reign?
  • Where am I resisting?
  • What things in my life actually hinder me from leaping fully into the risky business of following Jesus?
  • What areas of my life encourage me to live into radical discipleship, and how can I nurture those areas?

What I’m discovering is that I need to begin with the end in order to discover what I must give up… or nurture. The deep introspection and resulting repentance are not a bad thing, but they need to have purpose beyond the 40 days of Lent. In fact I would argue that cultivating a truly transformative Lenten practice actually develops in us a healthy life-long discipline that looks honestly at our brokenness and need for the healing of Jesus, while at the same time placing those acts of repentance into the larger purposes of God, not just for my own life but for the whole community.

So this Lenten season I’m anticipating great things. I want to be changed from the inside out. It’s not just a season of cleaning out the clutter in my life, a kind of spring cleaning, that I do year after year with very little change in my attitude and habits. This is a season which sets the tone for the year ahead as I face honestly the “weight and sin that clings so closely” (Rom. 12:1-2) for the purpose of living and loving more fully into the resurrection purposes of God in me and in the world.

What is Lent to you?

What are you doing this season of Lent to walk more fully into the purposes of God?