Preparation for Easter.
That is the point of Lent, but it never goes as I plan it.
My ideas for Lenten preparation include quiet and peaceful self-examination, extra time reading the scriptures, cutting out some of the business of life…generally I intend it to be a time more spiritual and meditative. Less hectic.
Those veterans more experienced with Lenten practice than myself are probably laughing. It seems that Murphy may have deduced his law from this part of the calendar year. Nothing is going as planned…and that seems to be the norm. In fact, if nothing else, I have been encouraged to find that practically none of my friends who are veterans of such church seasonal practices have been any more ‘successful’ than myself. (I apologize for taking solace in your frustration.)
Interestingly enough, one of those unexpected demands on “my” schedule happened again this week. Sadly, my wife’s grandfather passed away. We found out about his passing on Thursday night and learned on Friday afternoon that the funeral would be Sunday. It was twelve hours away. Suddenly we were packing six kids and the food necessary for our various dietary restrictions into the Yukon and leaving town Saturday at lunch time for a 12 hour drive…something our nearly two-year-old had never experienced.
In the midst of that hurried preparation to leave it hit me. Preparation looks like this!
God’s higher ways are odd and uncomfortable ways. They always have been…and they look nothing like my ideal time of preparation. Consider the Passover…a foreshadowing of all we are celebrating in Lent and Easter:
Every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household…and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it…roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover…on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments. (Exodus 12:3-12, ESV)
The entire process speaks of haste and urgency. There is nothing quiet or meditative. Death is approaching and your separation from the gods of this world is necessary to avoid sharing in the judgment of God upon them. This reality calls for obedience and attentiveness in the face of coming doom.
To bring things back to our situation, it would seem that God’s plans for preparation has more to do with judging the false gods in our lives…those things in which we take comfort apart from God…than with gaining new spiritual disciplines. (Spiritual growth,after all, is the focus of normal time.) He shows little interest in our sense of ‘personal holiness’ and spiritual fulfillment, and much greater concern for our separation from the leaven of false gods and recognition of our dependence on Him.
In all this I am reminded of what my friend Jen Fitz has said:
Lent prepares us for Easter, and Easter is not the day when we saved ourselves.