The Christian communities and denominations that I’ve been a part of have not put an emphasis on observing Lent in preparation for celebrating Easter. Lent traditionally includes fasting, abstinence and penitence. That sounds sacrificial but it may be that I have cheated myself by not participating in this custom.
One of the characteristics I admire in Mary, the mother of Jesus, is her staying power. She was there at the cross enduring a pain only a mother could feel as she stayed and was witness to the torture and death of her child. Another characteristic I admire is her trust in God at all costs; as displayed in her response when she found out she would be the mother of Jesus. Certainly, the circumstances of her son’s life were not as she would have written them. Her faith had staying power.
Staying with Jesus takes leaving your own agenda and taking up the cross. Observing Lent can be a conscious choice to stay with Jesus and share in the cross.
I think we cheat ourselves and take Jesus lightly by making the time leading up to the celebration of Easter just another season of the year. Easter is at risk of being recognized as just one special day rather than the joy filled answer to every day that led up to it and every day that has and will follow it.
I have the habit of looking at my calendar a lot. I track time and I try to form it to my agenda. My calendar is about planning, not believing; devising, not acknowledging; wondering, not hoping; going, not staying.
How would I be staying if I choose to observe Lent? I’d be staying in the practice of repentance. Staying in the reasons for the crucifixion of Jesus. Staying in a place of remembrance; a place called promised hope. Staying with what Jesus has done for me so I don’t get pulled to what my circumstances may do to me.
Our circumstances can pull us into striving or worrying or fear or anger or bitterness or any number of emotions and practices that suck the life out of us (and those around us). Staying with Jesus opens our eyes to the hope we’ve been called to and the victory that has already been won on our behalf. Staying gives us time to take in the abundance that’s been given to us and to cultivate gratitude. Staying gives us opportunity to love Jesus more and makes us available to love others more. And since love is why we were created and what we are called to, staying with Jesus in the practice of Lenten devotion, can give love staying power.
Forget the parked car analogy…”God can’t use a parked car” yah dee dah… Lent may be the time to pull over, give the keys back to God and stay awhile.