Not an Obstacle Course to Easter

“Lent is not an obstacle course to Easter.”

It was a familiar phrase during my time attending Georgetown University, repeated early and often throughout Lent by one of the Jesuits.

“Lent is not an obstacle course to Easter.”

Take a minute and really think about it.  Almost everything we do in Lent is just an obstacle course to Easter, a series of tires, balance beams and nets for us to navigate, conquer, and move on from.

How many times in your life has a Lenten commitment lasted past Easter?

How many times has it really, thoroughly changed you?

How many times have you come up with a hard Lenten commitment just so that you can seem tough when you tell people about it?

How many times have you picked something easy so that you could succeed without a real challenge?

How many times has your commitment been driven by self-centeredness or pride, more like a New Year’s Resolution than a real penance?

How many times, in crafting your Lenten commitment, have you forgotten about love?

Lent is not an obstacle course to Easter.

It is not a soapbox for our vanity.

It is not a rack for us to place ourselves upon as martyrs, or a time for us to punish ourselves.

Lent, as I see it, is a time for us to get our heads on straight, and cut through the noise, clutter, and apathy of our lives into what is really important.

Lent is a message about Easter, a prelude.

Lent is an invitation to remind us that two thousand years ago, every day, and in forty days,

HE.

IS.

COMING.

That is a big stinking deal.  Mind-blowingly big.

So big, in fact, that we usually don’t think about it, and we almost never get it.

What if that landed in our minds? What if we really, truly, got it? What if it dawned on us for even a fraction of a moment that he, He, HE! Yes, HIM! That guy! He’s the one! He is coming?!

During Lent, we become Zaccheus, Levi, and so many others. God announces that He is coming right smack dab into our homes and hearts. Then, He goes and gives us forty days to get ready.

We should be afraid.

We should be embarrassed and nervous.

We should also be excited out of our minds.  We ought to be bouncing up and down on our heels, blood pounding through our veins, nerves afire with thrill, hope, and trepidation.  Adrenaline should drive us to get ready.

But it never seems to work like that, does it? We get that message, then spend forty days avoiding chocolate to help our waistline, or sleeping on the carpet instead of the mattress because it sounds badass.

Don’t worry; I’m not judging you.  I do the same thing.  We all do it, to varying degrees.  Maybe the scariest thing in our every day lives, if we really stop and ponder, is that Christ, the most meaningful thing in our lives, never seems to mean enough to us.  We can’t be bothered.  We don’t cut beneath the surface.

We never seem to really, truly get it.

Maybe we can’t.  Maybe that is what it means to be human.

But sure as fire, we have to try.

This Lent, I want to challenge you to throw down a gauntlet to yourself.  Pick a Lenten commitment that makes you uncomfortable.  Something that electrifies your anticipation and trepidation in the same way that Christ ought to. Something that cuts into your very core and has the potential to really change you and bring a new version of you out of Lent and beyond Easter.

Chart a course beyond your comfort zone, letting your Lenten commitment take you to the parts of yourself you aren’t so confident in, or that you haven’t explored quite as well.  Those are the places where Christ resides.

Move.  Really move.  Pick a Lenten commitment that speaks to the part of you that is the most you, and that absolutely lights your nerves on fire in the way Christ should.

I want to challenge you to trust your gut.  To use your imagination, and try to think how you would behave if you really did get it.  If any of us got it.

Then go do that, because you will find that He is already there waiting for you.

Don’t punish yourself.  Don’t build obstacles to Easter.

Do something that sends sparks through your soul, kindling greater love and enthusiasm in your life.

Lent is not an obstacle course to Easter.

When he (yes, HIM.  Isn’t he the one who died on a cross for you?) comes in forty days, don’t let HIM find a version of you with just a bit fewer pounds or a bit fewer Netflix binges to show for it.

Find a way to show HIM a version of you who is already on fire, so that HE can stoke the flames of joy.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from him who has been entrusted with much, even more will be demanded.  I have come to ignite a fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! -Luke 12:48-49

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