As you read this article Ash Wednesday will be behind us and Lent, lasting for the whole of March, will be well in front of us. We will be starting our Lent Group Course called `Faith is a Verb’ which will explore how faith interacts with all aspects of our life and isn’t just for Sundays! We will also be supported in our Lenten journey towards Jerusalem and Jesus’ passion through Scripture readings, pertinent questions and pointers for our own prayer life. I hope it will be an enriching time for us all.
As we stand on the brink of these six weeks, I wonder how you view Lent as a whole? As I was growing up the emphasis was very much on denial of yourself, of `giving something up’ (usually the chocolate or alcohol – depending on your age!) – which I presumed was to reflect Jesus giving up everything whilst He was in the desert. However I never quite got the connection. Surely the point of Jesus’ forty day sojourn in the desert wasn’t about testing Himself to see if He could `do without’ … or discovering the ways He could `try harder’ to be a better person before he started on his ministry … or even how He could earn God’s approval by doing things `right’. Following His baptism as it did, Jesus’ time in the desert was much more to do with finding out who He was already … recognising His identity in God … and knowing the consequences that that discovery and conviction would have upon His life.
In just the same way we too can learn from that story for our own journey. Jesus’ experience in the desert doesn’t mean that, having been there and done that in his own time, Jesus is now like a sports coach, giving us a pep talk in the changing rooms before Lent begins, inspiring us to do better, cheering us on as we deny ourselves and become people who can `do without’ for 6 weeks. No, I now think of the Lent experience as being more about deep soul diving … diving into the depths within ourselves to find, like Jesus did, our own God-self … the God self which is already there … and exploring that wondrous discovery again and again! St Paul puts very succinctly what the ultimate goal of all our Lents is about: `I live no longer my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.’
But of course, as many spiritual teachers, as well as Jesus, have expressed, this deep soul diving means that we have to let go of ways of thinking and speaking and doing which are actually quite comfortable, self affirming, and ego protecting. These little deaths of our patterns of ego and very human instincts and are necessary if we want to truly live in Christ. And of course it is not easy. But it is what Lent is all about. It is what Jesus had to do during his time in the desert … give the firm `No’s’ to the ego which then gave Him the freedom to say `Yes’ to God. May we learn a little more how to do likewise this Lent.
with love, Liz