One of my first sermons to begin Lent after becoming a pastor made a lot out of these 40 days as something that couldn’t be got ’round. “We have to go through it,” I confidently intoned, drawing on the heart of the Protestant work ethic to face what needs facing. That’s how it rings to me now, at least.
But this Lent finds me more eager to tread the penitent path than I have been before. This year Lent feels not like something that must be done but something that can, and should, be done.
A great deal of mud has stuck on my shoes this past season that I’m eager to scrape off with a gnarly Lenten stick: outrage, anxiety, even despair. I need a season to drop some of that stuff.
So much accrues. Obligations, habits, grudges, attitudes: Lent is an invitation to walk for a season without some of those things by making a habit of dropping them by the roadside. It beckons us to experience time for a time without the daily dose of outrage, without those digital dopamine hits of affirmation, without the satiety of sweets or steak or whatever it is that makes us full.
The promise, of course, is that we will find how little we need them. We will discover again how much we can do and how far we can go on trust, simplicity, and grace.