Winter in Wisconsin. It gets long and lonely. By the time we hit March, we can find Winter quite irritating. We are weary of it all. The bleak barren landscapes. The cold. The snow. The ice. The frequent bouts of difficult driving and impossible walking. The claustrophobia. Cabin fever. The need to see the sun more than twice a month. The relentless piling on of clothes and scarves and hats and gloves and boots. We are also often sick and tired of being sick and tired.
In the midst of this somewhat brutal midwinter, the Church chose to plop Lent. Lent is a span of forty days. 40 was used by the Jews to indicate a long span of time. Noah and the 40 day rainfest. Moses and the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. So, Lent falls in scriptural line as a lengthy time of what I would call cleansing and purification. Think of it as a bath for the heart and soul.
I guess it was a good idea to put Lent in the middle of a season which forces you to stop, go slow, be silent and still. Maybe this is why we always associate Lent with the giving up of something, as it seems like an appropriate time to shed some spiritual clutter. With everything else swarming in gloom, it seems to be a good time to be asked to make a sacrifice.
I find an irony in Lent. I think of Lent as a time when we are being asked to take a long hot bath in an ocean of Grace. We need to soak in the awareness that we are God’s beloved children, and that we are cherished and adored by a most loving God. We need to let these Lenten waters heal us. To restore our faith in Life and ourselves. To relieve the pain and hurt of having failed to be true to our longings. To mend the cuts and bruises of the soul created by our futile efforts to be in control. Lent simply asks us to soak for a good long time. Let the water get good and dirty before it descends down the gracious drain.
In other words, Lent is not a period intended for punishment. It is not a time for spiritual scolding. It is not when we should feel bad about being bad. It is not about wallowing in guilt. Lent is not about feeling lousy so can then know the joy of Easter. It is about knowing exactly why Easter can be an “eastering” event of joy in our lives.
So…look outside. The black tree laced landscape. The lovely little lingering patches of snow. The arrival of the occasional spritely crocus. The softening winds. The fertiling soil. The readying for Spring. Lent is like a house cleaning of the spirit. Creating a clean heart in us. And Lent is Christ’s effort to do just that. To whiten us. To make us clean and fresh. Forgiven and adored.
Easter is coming, but don’t miss Lent. Yield to it. Dive in. Soak. Be cleansed. Be made whole. Be healed. Be calmed. Be quieted. Be sure of the Grace which embraces you. Lent has a job to do, but it cannot do it unless we choose to immerse ourselves. So…sit your Self down in this holy tub and let these baptismal waters do their work.
Water. The grand means of erosion. The flow of the river of Life to the sea of Easter. The wandering and meandering trail of an eternal truth which empties into an ocean of Grace. A good hot bath might be just what we need. It sure can’t hurt. It just might bring our weary souls back to life.
Watch for the daffodil. The forsythia. God is then buttering the earth for the feast we call Easter. It is coming. But first things first. Lent is required. It is the tilling of the spiritual soil. It is the weeding out of the world. It is the cleansing of our sins. Simple sins. Times we chose not to love as we should or could.
Lent is to Easter what death is to life. It offers depth and perspective and a rich appreciation. It is the mat and frame to the painting. It is that which brings out the true beauty. That which enables us to see the whole picture. That which frees us to celebrate the mastery revealed in the art.
There is a reason why we seldom choose to hang a frameless painting on the walls of our homes. It would just fall flat. It would lack depth and light and crispness. It would fail to invite you inside. It would, well, just not be as beautiful. It is the mat and frame which offer the painting the gracious gift of being fully seen.
In the bleak midwinter. The mat and the frame for the lush lime lace of Spring. The season of Lent. Time spent becoming holy. Healing and whole. So, that the soul can be amazed again by the incessant giving of new life.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.