Lent is a long road – forty days. An echo of Jesus’ forty days of temptation and the forty years Israel spent on their journey from Egypt.
When my dad died in 2011, I can remember thinking – often – “When will this end?” The grief. It never did. Not really. To think of my dad mostly provokes love and gratitude. But there is still a sting, a pain. It still hurts. It took a long time to get to where I am in my life-long grief. All of us will experience some grief – some much. I wanted the pain of grief to be over right away. It took time… a journey… to get to life beyond.
Lent is forty days long because there are no shortcuts from where we are to where God wants us to be. This is true physically – we cannot go from being 10 to being 60, from being a child to being mature, overnight. We cannot lose fifty pounds in a week. Or get in shape over the weekend.It is also true spiritually. Not even Jesus took shortcuts. He spent 30 years or so preparing for his mission. It took three years to move from its beginning to its end and his eventual triumph over sin and death.
So much more spiritually. Not even Jesus took shortcuts. He spent thirty years or so preparing for his mission. It took three years to move from its beginning to its end and his eventual triumph over sin and death. There was no road except the long one. There was no path except the one that took his entire life to walk.
Should I expect any less of my life? I crave shortcuts, templates, silver bullets and quick wins. They don’t exist. At least not with anything that matters. We all crave winning the lottery – not just the ones that pay money. But the moment of instant change in circumstances. They happen now and again. But they are not the norm that God intends.
For me the great challenge is not to live in the future – not to have my attention on the empty tomb while I stumble along the road toward Jerusalem, toward the trials and the suffering and the cross that are there. Two weeks remain until Easter and there is much between the now and then. A garden. Trial. Betrayal. Torture. Suffering. Disillusionment. A cross. Death. Grief.
If we will make the journey such things stand before us, too. We may not welcome them. But we must face and experience them before we get to the empty tomb.