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Lent, the Surgeon

Greenville, SC

I am sitting by the fire today. My back up against the hearth with pillows cushioning me. Down pillows. The outside temperature is below 30 degrees. A storm is moving towards our city with an assignment to drop a possible 12 inches on our property, decorating our tree limbs. Snow falling makes everything magical to me. Today marks a few weeks into Lent and, sadly, I have made it a last priority this year. It’s the Sabbath and I am not at church because I slept through my alarm. The six pillows must have cut off all sound from my ears, and the softest blanket in the world had me under a spell. The problem is, I like comfort. I crave to be cozy, never hungry and always clasping the perfect hot drink. So Lent arrives and plunders me. Haunts me. This six week span is all about yanking the pleasant padding right out from under me. Setting me in a bright room staring into a magnifying mirror. A personal nightmare. It’s just so disturbing to look at myself with no distractions. Naked. I’m Adam and Eve wanting to hide. Even as I type this, I am hypnotized by the warmth on my back. So dreamy with serenity. I am in need of Lent.

Lent is like that boat thrashing in the storm. Rough waves curve high and drop into the cabin shoving the boat in every direction. Water swashing from one end to the other, covering feet and ankles, leaving every disciple unsteady and wobbly. Panicked. There is no coziness. The storm seizes every bit of control. As the disciples scramble in fear, survival is their mission. Lent is just like this. It’s intended to pry open one finger at a time and remove the bits we squeeze so tightly to, giving us something more sustainable. More worthy of our loyalty.

Jesus lays on the cushion. Asleep.

Honestly, it is hard for me to even imagine this. How is he sleeping in the middle of a maelstrom? The men are convinced he doesn’t care. His rest appears like a statement of selfishness and a lack of concern. Jesus being untroubled is odd. Scripture mentions that the Son of God “had nowhere to lay his head.” From one town to the next he healed the sick, taught those who were willing to listen, and chastised those who were self-righteous. The more I read the Gospels the more obvious it is that he chose a very uncomfortable experience in order to save us. He was the target for so many threats. Every day his life was unsafe. Most of his friends ran away when he was in trouble. Nothing was easy for him. Jesus was born to endure. From the start of his ministry he would be thrust into desert after desert, loneliness, rejection, physical pain and impending torturous death. Lent represents his first 40 days when the Spirit actually lead him into the desert to fast and pray. His fight was with Satan himself and his hardiness came directly from heaven, not his flesh. His was a holy power delivered to his bones promptly when weakness was shutting him down.

Lent takes, and subsequently gives. The tumultuous wind and sideways rain were a severe mercy for the disciples. These extinguished the illusion of control and flashed a billboard of God’s power. Jesus’s sleep challenged their fear and gave them an illustration of trust-filled peace. A circumstance like this delivers the best qualities to a human and hook them deep into us while choking out the useless weeds. Lent hacks through the brush that has tangled around us leading to self-absorption, indulgence, purposelessness, shallow conversations, meaningless pursuits, misunderstandings of money, and the mirage we present to others that life is exactly like the polished Christmas card picture.

Lent comes as a surgeon…

Removing busyness.

Removing greed.

Removing that idol that has its hands around your neck.

Shaking the fear off your shoulders.

Reigning in an imbalanced life.

Spreading a balm over perfectionism.

and on it continues…

Surfacing mercy,

Spreading generosity,

Producing patience,

Sowing sacrifice,

Spinning empathy,

Making possible a calm spirit,

Fanning Trust,

And cultivating Humility.

We all need our own 40 day desert excursion. Without a doubt, it will transform us. The Divine qualities do not find their way up and out of us unless we have some Lent in our daily lives. This obsession with comfort is turning us into two-dimensional figures with little depth and even less motivation to pull down the Kingdom of heaven and sprinkle it on earth. My challenge to those reading this would be to add in a time of solitude and reflection each week. Though taking away chocolate or coffee is a sacrifice for many of us, solitude is like miracle grow. Your kids need to see you do this, your spouse can handle time away from you, your friends can meet you later, your house can be straightened up another day, you can give up a workout to take care of your weary soul, cut the TV off, and put the phone down…

Give Lent some time to work.

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