Lent has various aspects. The first is our mortality (“from dust you came; to dust you return”). The second is sin. Mortality and sin are connected. Without the original sin, there would be no death. Sin brought death to Creation.
From there, to some degree, sin is broken into original sin (that which brought death into Creation), and personal sin. Personal sin is often what we confront when it comes to Lent. This that sin which personally maintains separation from ourselves and God. More importantly, it is us through our sin that maintains that gap. The known end of Lent is Good Friday, the commemoration of when God died to bridge the chasm of holiness between God and man. This makes our personal sin all the more tragic.
Lent will often include some sort of spiritual discipline that is usually a “giving up” of something. There was a time when it was primarily meat (still is in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities). As that was in a time where meat was in short supply already, there is some question as to how “sacrificial” it was. Now we think in terms of news, social media, phones (that would nice), internet, alcohol (for those who drink), a meal (not just meat). All this with the intent, though rarely practices, to instead use that time to approach the throne of God.
Lent is really a time of pretend. That’s not mean in a bad way. In many respects, we blessed so much that it is hard to lament or mourn because we know what’s on the other side of Good Friday. Many of us have such a life of ease, that we don’t understand just how important God’s words are to the broken.
We are not just talking about the Christian-ese of the “lost” or the “wayward” or the “not-yet Christian” or the “cold to Christ”. We are talking about people abandoned and lost. As much as this may grate on you, this includes people fleeing to the US from their native country. While there are some who are truly not doing this to become a part of the US people, the majority are giving up (and gave up) everything for a sliver of a hope to become something new.
That hope, as small as it often is, is that same sort of redemptive hope and life change hope that God had promised to the Israelites for generations. That is the hope in the darkness that Lent exemplifies. Unless we have been in a dark place, any understanding of hope in the face of despair is an intellectual exercise lacking depth.
To not take this as dismissive. This is coming from the depths of my own heart’s darkness these last few weeks. Certainly, not the darkest, but only by a few shades. As I look at that, I understand even then how much I cannot comprehend the depth and breadth and length of the despair of Israel, that was answered by the depth and breadth and length of God’s redemptive love.
Jesus, thank you for walking the road of the cross for us. May we pick up our cross and follow you. Amen.