The last week I have been reflecting on the differences between Lent and Advent.  Both are seasons of preparation, and both are exhausting.  But what happens in them is so very different.

There is a joyous expectation that comes with Advent.  And there  is exhaustion that comes with Advent, as we all give into the joyous rounds of parties and gatherings, and Christmas Luncheons.  Advent is usually filled with deep fellowship… in which bread is broken, carols are sung and bonds are forged.

I do realize that for many people Advent and Christmas are filled with great difficulty and anxiety.  I see it in them and I hold them in prayer and do my best to encourage them.  And so without lessening your Advent trials…. let me say that for me Advent is a joyous season, but Lent has it’s problems…

Lent….is oh so different.  It is also a season of preparation and of exhaustion.  But the similarities end there.  In Lent we prepare for the humbling and difficult journey to the cross.  There are no Lenten parties, and we don’t seem to get together in Lent, even as a church, like we do in Advent.  And the exhaustion, seems more spiritual and emotional than physical.

So the last few days this Litany has been running through my head….Some a reflection of where things are with me, but also with the Presbytery, and with the world in general.  

When people emerge from snow bound homes and start snapping at one another
It must be Lent

When short meetings grow long because much deeper issues are uncovered 
It must be Lent

When every one wants everything done now, before those who hibernated all winter take off on summer pursuits
It must be Lent

When trying to do the right thing and make someone’s life better only uncovers a depth of problems no one is prepared to face
It must be Lent

When you realize that the Lenten discipline you have attempted has gone the way of the dodo because the demands on your time are overwhelming
It must be Lent

When the tenuous hope for peace in the world breaks down into increased hostility
It must be Lent

When those who have suffered with ill health all winter embrace the coming of spring with a hastened step toward death
It must be Lent

When anger and betrayal become the normative way of life
It must be Lent

When crosses are erected on church lawns and you begin to wonder if one of them is for you
It must be Lent.

 I don’t know why this is, but for me Lent invariably becomes a time of heavy burdens, deep concern, seemingly unmagable problems and sheer exhaustion.  There are moments in Lent when only the thought that Easter is coming is what sustains me.  

The promise of Scripture is so important in these dark days….

Promises like:

joy comes in the morning

I will never leave you or forsake you

my peace I leave with you

my grace is sufficient for you

My love for you is so great that I sent my only son, to be your redemption….

Whatever it is about Lent that brings out the trials and difficulties of life for me, it is only by clinging to the Old Rugged Cross that I can see to the end of it.

And yet, I also wonder if Lent is meant to be this way.  Maybe the struggle of Lent, especially the spiritual struggle of Lent, is meant to be a way for us to start to grasp the depth of what Jesus suffered.

Disciples that didn’t listen and couldn’t understand.
The veiled hostility of the Temple leadership
The unending demands of those who swamped him daily for healing, for cleansing, for hope.
The pain of knowing that those who profess to love him will abandon him.
The heartbreak of knowing that one whom he trusted would betray him.
The agony and struggle of wanting to say no to God, but knowing that he must continue of the pathway.
The scandal of his arrest, trial and cruel crucifixion.
The emptiness of being cut off from God in death.

This gift of forgiveness and salvation cost Jesus more than we can ever begin to comprehend.  

That knowledge points to a greatness in God’s love, which is far greater than we can ever know.  

 

This time of spiritual pain is only temporary.
Thank God, it’s only Lent.  

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