Walking Our Faith: Lent as a guide to life

The challenge of Lent is that it’s an enormous 40-day journey that we are asked to undertake every year, and it’s easy to believe that we can just skip it this year or go through the motions because nothing’s really going to change.

After all, we know the story. It is the journey that we are asked to walk with Jesus Christ to the cross to reexperience the injustice of his trial, the torment of his crucifixion and the ultimate joy of his resurrection.

And maybe we are tempted to go through the motions because it’s tough stuff if we look closely.

It asks us to not look away from not only the injustice that was done to Christ but to the injustice we see every single day. It asks us to walk in the shoes of our neighbors just as we are asked to accompany Christ in his suffering.

It asks us to sit through the darkest night of our lives — with only hope of our personal resurrection and rebirth — and wonder how even the son of God could cry out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

And it asks us to understand that our own rebirth will only come after we have endured what we thought was unimaginable or given up a life we had grown comfortable with, but perhaps had also outgrown, even if we hadn’t realized it.

Two years ago, I gave up alcohol for Lent. I realized my consumption of red wine no longer served me. It didn’t leave me feeling better the next day. I didn’t sleep better at night. It didn’t relieve my depression. It had just become a habit.

I had tried to give up my nightly consumption of red wine in previous years but never lasted more than a week. Yet two years ago, I made it past the first week, then the second. By the third week, I realized I was feeling terrific mentally, physically and emotionally. I was sleeping like a baby. And then the scary thought occurred to me: If I feel so great without alcohol, why would I start drinking again?

So I stopped. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. When my mother died, I thought for sure I’d give myself permission to have one night of drinking a bottle of red. But I didn’t. And that was a much better way to honor my mother.

And that is the invitation of Lent. To be fully present for our lives, to experience the arduous journey, to persevere through temptation, to keep our eyes focused on the road ahead, even when we don’t see the promise of resurrection yet.

This year my Lenten journey is to begin learning what it’s like to truly be on my own in this world. I turned 60 in March, but because of the close relationship my mother and I shared, I was very much my mother’s daughter. I made the decisions on my own, but Mom was always my sounding board.

Now she is not here, and I face some very important decisions about where I will live, what I will do. I would not be truthful if I didn’t admit I’ve had a few sleepless nights mulling the right path to take.

The funny thing is that six months ago, right before Mom came to live with me, I had the next 10 years of my life all planned out. I was going to work at St. John’s for the next 10 years. Breckenridge would always be my home. We make plans, and God laughs.

But Lent has taught me that God is also always with us. Even when our lives are upended, we still walk with God. This is the lesson and gift of Lent.

On Fridays during Lent, we have a prayer practice called Stations of the Cross. There are 14 stations, each of which is an image depicting the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

The images are arranged around the interior perimeter of the church, and we are invited to walk the stations genuflecting and praying at each. It is, by its subject matter, solemn and emotionally compelling. It also brings to life what the cornerstone of our faith is about: the sacrifice that was made on our behalf by Christ.

Lent asks us to make this walk with Christ, to renew our faith in a new and deeper way each year as we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice and his triumph over death. In turn, as we walk through our own trials, we understand that God walks with us.

As I make the effort to pay attention during Lent — to spend time in prayer with God, seeking to enlarge his place in my life — the deeper my relationship with God grows in meaning.

Sunday, April 10, begins Holy Week, the final and most sacred and emotionally weighted day of our Lenten journey. I hope we will prepare ourselves this week to make Holy Week especially meaningful this year.

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