And so the journey begins – the journey to the Cross!
In one sense, we make this trek once a year. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, the day we commemorate the death of the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself for us! The season was traditionally a way of identifying with Jesus Christ when He spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. And so it is a journey of reflection, remembrance, and repentance, often marked with solemnity and sacrifice. Many people choose to ‘give up’ such things as chocolate, caffeine, sweets, alcohol, or some other ‘guilty pleasure’ during Lent. Others may try to give up social media, electronics, or certain forms of entertainment. Still, others mark the solemnity of this period with a full or partial fast from food, or a particular meal each day, or each week. Some would take the time otherwise engaged in these activities, and devote themselves to prayer, Bible reading, or some other spiritual discipline.
All of these things are great if done from a pure heart and holy intentions.
But Jesus carries it even further. He takes it to the next level when He speaks of the ultimate sacrifice: giving up our lives! “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Wow! There’s a lot to unpack in THAT statement! Of course, Jesus is not talking about giving up our lives for Lent. No! – He’s talking about giving up our lives … for life!
I digress. We’re talking about the journey to the Cross. In one sense it’s about the observation of Lent.
In another sense, the journey begins when, in response to God’s grace, faith is first activated in the human heart. For me, it was five decades ago when, as a 12-year-old boy, I knelt at a wooden altar in the tabernacle at Delanco Camp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, USA, confessed my sins to Jesus, accepted His forgiveness, and began a new life with His Spirit living inside me. It was the moment I was ‘born again’! I like to call it “the Divine Exchange”: my sin for His sacrifice; my confession for His forgiveness; my brokenness for His healing. In response to God’s grace, my faith was activated, and my journey began. It is a journey of discovery, discipleship, and detachment, but one that is marked with unconditional love, ineffable joy, and inexplicable peace.
And so it continues. It will continue beyond the Cross … to the Resurrection … and beyond, when one day, face to Face I will meet the One who saved me by His grace, I will feel the touch of His nail-scarred hand on my shoulder and I will hear Him say to me, “Well done, My good and faithful servant, and welcome to Paradise, My dear, completed friend!”
If you’d like more details on the History of Lent, here’s a pretty succinct blog post I stumbled across recently. https://groundworkonline.com/blog/a-short-version-of-the-long-history-of-lent