I expected things to change, for life to be different, but there was nothing. There were the same number of things on my “to-do list” and e-mails to respond to, laundry to complete and weeds to pull. Nothing seemed to change last Wednesday like I thought it should.
Last Wednesday began our season of Lent. Lent is the forty days prior to Easter. These forty days are symbolic of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness and the forty years of the Israelites in the desert where they were tested, challenged and learned how to depend upon God. The season has often been described to me as forty days of giving up and taking on. People give up chocolate, TV, Facebook and take on prayer, time with God and a better Christian lifestyle. For forty days we are to pray, confess and contemplate our walk with Jesus.
We begin these forty days on Ash Wednesday. At Pinnacle we join on Wednesday evening for worship, communion and the imposition of ashes. We place the ashes on our foreheads as a sign and symbol of the dust we came from described in Genesis and the dust that we will return to in death. The life and death that comes from God and lives with us during our busy, stressful and sometimes hectic lives.
But after the service was over and I had been anointed with the cross of ashes on my forehead nothing seemed different. You would think I would feel the holy presence of Jesus, ready to hunker down and spend these forty days together. But I could only think about the mountain of emails, a long list of to do items and the spirit I expected to change in me as we began Lent, wasn’t really there.
I expected to feel like I had entered a holy season, a time when moments for prayer would be more evident. The feeling of God’s presence was swirling around me, and the anticipation of Easter would be as exciting as Christmas morning, but I got up Thursday morning feeling exactly the same way.
That is when I realized that the emails, to-do lists and my attitude of life around me was never going to change unless I changed. Jesus asks us to change not by stopping what we are doing, but by seeing our days differently. Lent isn’t the season when God writes the 11th commandment, thou shall find time for me today…Lent is the season of recognizing that we don’t always know where Jesus is in our day. We are asked to allow ourselves to be lost, so that instead of finding God where we want to see him (and in turn, ignoring God in other places of our lives) we let the Holy Spirit find us.
I realized that I was expecting Jesus to show up with a Where’s Jesus picture page (like Where’s Waldo, but better) so that I could spend these forty days searching for Jesus. Jesus would know what I needed to work on, but that would mean that our relationship was all about me. I needed to find Jesus, I needed to work harder, I needed to plan my prayer time more efficiently. It is just the opposite, which is why Lent is so difficult. Jesus doesn’t want us to find him, instead He wants us to stop and let Jesus find us. Lent is about letting our busy, full and sometimes stressful lives be set aside so that Jesus can enter those place too.
Our journey with Jesus doesn’t change in an instant; remember, it took forty years for the Israelites in the wilderness to figure it out. Use these forty days to allow Jesus to enter every corner of our life and be present.