With three Sundays in Lent behind us and three Sundays between today and Easter before us, now seems like a good to ask: How is it going? Are you still giving up that which you set out to give up or doing that which you were determined to do on Ash Wednesday?
Lenten disciplines, like New Year’s resolutions, lose steam when we become bored with or inattentive to them. However, unlike New Year’s resolutions, Lenten disciplines have a definite ending point, at which time, when all goes well, we feel spiritually renewed and fully alive.
This past week, I made a quick trip to Virginia, where my daughter is in college, to bring her back to Pennsylvania for a few days. She is on spring break this week and seems grateful that all of the essays and mid-term exams that were required of her before she was free to go are in the rearview mirror now.
I share this story with you, because it seems to me that Lent is like college insofar as there are clear starting and ending points, but much of what matters happens in between.
Ash Wednesday is imposing , because then we are reminded that, in the end, we are ashes, just as we were in the beginning. Easter is thrilling, because, on this glorious Sunday, we celebrate our assurance that death does not have the last word.
Confession: In the week ahead, I plan to do some catching up on my Lenten “to do” list. This morning started with more sustained reading than most mornings do, because I had fallen behind in reading Heidi Haverkamp’s Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits and Rebels, which is one of the devotionals to which I am committing myself this Lent.
In one of the readings that I did not read when I was supposed to read it, Haverkamp quotes writer and blogger Vinita Hampton Wright, who observes that, “We learn God’s will by moving toward something–whatever seems right to us. In the way that you cannot steer a parked car, God cannot direct us while we are sitting rigidly in our fear and over-caution.”
Ash Wednesday is the starting point of the Lenten journey, and yet, unless we move openly and deliberately toward Easter, we miss out on the blessings that go with receiving God’s direction.
If you are feeling bogged down this Lent or as if your journey to Easter has not even revved up yet, then please note that there is still time to observe a holy Lent. If you feel that you were off to a good start but suddenly you are sputtering, then please do not hesitate to set aside the fear in your life that keeps you from moving in the direction of God’s dream for you.
One of the overriding premises of the sermon series that I am preaching this Lent is that God’s grace always goes before us. Thus, the thought with which I leave you is that since God’s grace goes before us, we need not be afraid wherever we are and however we feel about this year’s Lenten journey. Easter eventually comes; until then, let’s enjoy the ride.