We are about to embark together on another Lenten journey. It is almost time to hop on board.
As I approach the shore, I see the boat is ready. Looking beyond, I see the open water and what looks like dark clouds in the distance. The clouds are still far, though, and the anticipation of what is to come fills me with excitement and maybe a little fear. Thinking I might have forgotten something, I go over the things I’ve packed for the journey: sacrifices to offer during Lent (fasting), new or renewed devotionals (prayer), commitments to serve my brothers and sisters (almsgiving). Check, check and check. I look around and see my fellow travelers busily looking through their luggage and checking their schedules for all the wonderful opportunities available to grow during this journey. Everyone seems too busy to notice the dark clouds ahead, and I wonder if we are truly ready for what lies ahead.
I think it is human nature to forget the “bad stuff” and focus on the good. When my son was born, the pain and difficulties during the pregnancy and labor melted away as I saw this miracle in my arms. But now that he is a teenager, I remind him now and then of all the sacrifices we made so that he could be born. I do not do this to make him feel bad. On the contrary, I do it to make him feel loved. When I shared with him how my life was at risk during the pregnancy and how we rearranged our whole lives so he could have a chance to live, he looked at me and said, “I was loved before I was born.” And I told him, “Yes, you were, my love.”
Each year, when we celebrate Easter, the difficulties of the last 40 days melt away. Lent reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made so that we may be born. Lent helps us remember how much God loves us.
As I look at the dark clouds ahead, I realize I am not ready, and that is ok, because this is precisely the point of Lent. Our Church invites us to embark on a journey of growth and preparation, a journey of transformation. Perhaps in our desire to “do Lent well,” we have overpacked. Perhaps God is asking us to only bring the one thing necessary… the desire to grow in the love of God and love of neighbor.
The path through Calvary is narrow, and to make it through, we will need to let go of some of the things we might be holding on to. Are we holding on to resentment, anger, or unforgiveness? Are we holding on to fear? Are we holding on to self-reliance? We need to pause and notice what is weighing on our hearts, for His burden is light
As we prepare for Lent, let us ask God to show us what extra baggage He wants us to get rid of, to show us what is keeping us from running to His love. And then, once He shows us, we must ask for the grace to let it go. We do not need to prepare for every contingency… look in the boat. Jesus is already there sleeping… let us hop on board.