Last year, I had a wonderful Lenten Season. It was chock-full of prayers that got answered, awesome times of worship, and exciting insights into the Word. I was really looking forward to such an experience this year.
This year, I’ve struggled with illness and discouragement the entire time. When Eric asked at our monastic group a couple of weeks ago, how we all were doing with Lent, my first thought was, “not so good.” Every day had been a struggle, not only to keep up with my Lenten promises but also just to pray, hear from God or even go to church.
“Wow,” I thought, “Lent is passing me by.” I began to think of this year’s Lenten experience as a failure – of myself as a failure.
But the God of the resurrection has a habit of rescuing me from the dark pits I sometimes fall into and He has rescued me again by reminding me that there is no such thing as a Lenten failure. In fact, for those who are in Christ, there is no such thing as failure at all. As Paul reminds us in Phil. 1:6, we can be confident that “He who began a good work in us will perfect it.”
Many times during their journeys, many Christinas have experienced something called, “a dark night of the soul.” This phrase was first used by a 16th poet to describe an experience in which you do not feel God’s presence in your life but in which God is still at work under the surface. The poet describes this “holy darkness” as being “better than the light” because although it can be difficult to get through, something wonderful and lighter is eventually born out of it.
Jesus may have been talking about this when He said “Truly, truly I say to you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jn 12:24
When a grain of wheat falls from the sower’s hand, it is covered by soil and hidden from the world. Yet something begins to happen in the darkness. Nourished by the earth and sensing the warmth of the sun above, the dry seed that seemed so dead begins to swell. It wakes up, and reaches downward, developing deep strong roots into the life-giving soil. At the same time, it pushes upward toward the light. Finally, it breaks through the surface, bringing hope of something more, and showing itself to the world above. As more time goes on, it grows into a plant that seems to first wave its hands in recognition and praise of the Creator and then allows itself to be cut, beaten, ground, formed and fired into something that can help nourish a hungry world.
Perhaps, this is the work God is doing in my life during Lent. I think I’ve made a break through. I’ve seen a glimpse of God, I feel refreshed and I’m growing toward heaven.
And now my calendar isn’t the only thing telling me that Easter is just around the corner!