Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes writes,
Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.— Luke 4.1-2
In Lent we enter The Forty Days. We are not walking a new path; we walk Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. And in doing so we enter into the forty-day path of all the holy ones who came before him. So it’s a much richer journey than one of temptation alone. Along with Jesus we walk with Moses on Mount Sinai for forty days receiving the Law. It is a journey of revelation. We walk with Elijah to Mount Horeb for forty days, where he listens to the “still, small voice,” the silence of God. It is a journey of prayer. We walk with the Israelites for forty years in the desert seeking the Promised Land. It is a journey of homecoming. We live with Noah on the Ark for forty days. It is a journey of new life.
The forty days of Lent invite us to face our temptations and repent of our sin, but more deeply than merely admitting our wrongdoings and shortcomings. Repentance is not ego-bashing; it’s turning away from the things in which we’ve sought life, that can’t actually give life, and turning instead toward God, the Abundant Source. We embrace our suffering, not because we deserve to be hurt, but because we are learning not to be scared off by difficulty in our search for true Life. You are hungry for God. The thing to give up for Lent is starving yourself.
Lent is not a time of punishment or deprivation, but a time of deeper receiving. It’s a time of mindfulness, a time of opening up more deeply to God’s grace-filled presence. Our fasting and prayer is not wallowing in guilt and severity, but letting go of all but God so that we may be richly, deeply, abundantly fed. It’s a time of becoming a seed, still and waiting in the darkness, open to the miracle of resurrection yet to come. Lent is a time when we plant ourselves in the mystery of God and wait in simplicity and humility. We wait because it says right on the seed packet, “Germination time: forty days.”
May these forty days be rich for your soul. (Unfolding Light, February 18, 2010)