I did not grow up in a church that celebrated Lent, and after realizing how selfishly most people approach the Lenten season, I was skeptical of its importance. Most people look at Lent as a second chance at a New Year’s Resolution–a chance to eat healthier or become a more successful person. But the more I’ve learned about this special 40 days on–for lack of a better word–the spiritual calendar, I’ve grown to see it’s importance.
Here’s how my pastor describes Lent:
“Lent is a time of waiting with anticipation. It’s a time of preparation, and a time to prepare our hearts and minds for what Jesus did on the cross and in the tomb.”
The time of waiting my pastor described is the same type of waiting we see in other parts of Scripture. In Romans 8:19 it says:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved…”
The waiting described in this passage is not a pleasant waiting, as if we are kicked back on a beach chair drinking special lemonades shaded by mini umbrellas. That’s mean of me–to describe the beach and lemonade when we’re still in winter. It’s not the type of waiting as in waiting for a bus or waiting in the drive through line at Chickfila.
It’s an attentive waiting that is described like child-birth. I remember the look on my wife’s face when she was having a contraction. That is not the same look she has when she’s standing in line at the grocery store. The child-birth type of waiting is painful, but it’s leading to something beautiful. It’s leading to new birth. And new life.
I think one of the best examples of this groaning in anticipation of something better, is found in the account of God’s calling of Moses. In Exodus 2:23 and following we read: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help…went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
And then we see in Chapter 3 where God appears to Moses in the bush, declares himself to be the God of Israel, and then says…
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Think about the similarities between the passages in Romans and Exodus. In Romans, creation—and everything in it—is groaning as in the pains of Childbirth for the redemption of Jesus. And here in Exodus we see the nation of Israel groaning for God’s rescue.
That is the waiting described by the practice of lent. It’s waiting in the midst of suffering with the anticipation that your suffering is coming to an end. That God is moments away from rescuing you, redeeming you, and bringing your new life.