“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)
Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a season that traditionally has carried a somber mood. People use the days of Lent for penitence and as a preparation for the celebration of Easter. The black ashes that are placed on the foreheads of believers is representative of Lent’s dark mood. This year, however, I have noticed that a lot of people are challenging the idea that Lent must be so somber and dark. Yes, it is meant to be a time to look inward but it should also include the idea of darkness being overcome by light. Appropriately enough, the word Lent means “lengthening.” This special time in the liturgical year always comes when the days are lengthening with the arrival of Spring.
On a couple of blogs I have even seen suggestions that Lent is a great time for people to get outdoors and to contemplate what is happening in the natural world. During the Lenten season not only will the hours of daylight become longer and longer, we will also witness the renewal of the earth as flowers blossom, trees bud, and the wildlife absent during the winter months make a reappearance. Spring is a glorious time in the world of nature. The greening of the earth in locations like where I live remind us that the gloom of winter does not have the final word. Darkness gives way to light; what appears dead is revealed to be full of life.
Needless to say, I concur with those who say Lent is a wonderful time to get outdoors. That does not mean I believe that the somber spirit of Lent should be totally eliminated or that acts of penitence are not appropriate. I just happen to believe we need the balance that nature can provide to the season. By all means I need to take notice of the darkness that still yet resides in my soul. It would be foolish of me to deny or ignore those areas where I am not what my Creator desires for me. But if I focus on only the darkness and sin in my life I could easily succumb to despair. I hardly think that is what God desires.
What I do believe God desires is that each of us experience a renewal not unlike that which we observe in the realm of nature. Our goal is hardly to linger in the darkness but to move more and more into the light. Lent calls for Spring in our souls. And just as the lengthening of the hours of daylight takes time, so does the lengthening of the light within us. Lent reminds us that the spiritual journey is not a short one. It also serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of the spiritual life. Spring will follow Winter, but Summer and Autumn will also come. Behind these Winter will reappear and then, of course, once again Spring and so forth.
Right now people around here are eager for winter to transition to spring. It has been a long cold winter. Hopefully we are just as eager to experience the renewal of our souls. Lent gives us a chance to help make this happen if we will let God’s two books, the Scriptures and the Creation, guide our steps. It is indeed my hope and prayer that beauty will rise forth from the ashes of this day in your life and mine.