In previous years, as I’ve prepared to enter into the season of Lent, I have felt an eager anticipation of spiritual renewal, peppered with the sobering reality that I am extremely attached to worldly comforts.
This year as lent approaches, those feelings are absent. If I’m honest, I feel nothing. I know entering into Lent with intention bears fruit, I’ve seen it in my own life many times. And yet, as I think about the coming season, I’m at a loss. No feelings rise up – not of hope, nor dread. Nothing. Today, it hit me as to why.
Lent, in part, is an experience of loss. A season of mourning and fasting. Mourning over sin and the brutality that Christ endured for our sake- and fasting so that we might enter without hindrance and with intentionality into God’s presence. It is also a season of anticipation, of holding expectant hope for the good news and feasting of Easter.
Thus, the Lenten season invites us into the tension of mourning and hoping, of fasting and anticipating the feast.
As those truths settled into my awareness today, it hit me like a ton of bricks that the entirety of this past year has required that same posture, the holding of that same tension. I could cry just naming that.
The past year has been one of fasting – fasting from human contact, fasting from meals with loved ones, fasting from the simple pleasure of seeing someone’s smile not concealed. We have been fasting for a year. We are starving.
We have also had to hold hope like never before/ to cling to the truth that God is love and he is here in the midst of suffering, and in fact, he is a God who is acquainted with suffering, came to rescue us from it and will come again to restore all things. Every single day has required that kind of hoping. Hoping is hard, and exhausting, and so vulnerable. We are so raw, so tired.
Thus, it is with weary bones and involuntary surrender that I enter into lent this year. I am not entering with thoughtful intention, I’m literally falling on my face at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps the most accurate portrayal of the reality of the Lenten invitation than ever before in my life. Prostrate in the dust, my human frailty realized, his strong hand lifts me up. I am a beggar in the court of the King and I have no choice but to ask him for food. I am starving for his goodness. And more than ever, I need the hope of Easter to be true. I can’t carry the loss, I can’t carry the hope. Only he can bear such burdens.
So, is the invitation into lent different this year than in others? No, the invitation is always the same. “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” However, I am different. I lay down my strongholds, I lay down my arms, as I simply can no longer hold them up.