I am not very good at Lent. I find the common exhortations of the Lenten season, especially in Holy Week, uncomfortable to contemplate and draining to pursue.
Am I a sinner? Certainly. But I am also saved by Christ’s work, His death on the cross and resurrection. I can maintain this in serenity. An exhortation to “take up your cross” I can absorb with equanimity, even while I note that I do not do very well at following this requirement. Do I give all I can spare to charity? No. Do I too often regard my time and effort as my own? Yes. The list could, of course, go on to list all possible sins of omission and commission: but these things I know – I believe myself to be fairly self-aware. In short, the contemplation of myself, even in relation to God, is no great hardship. Imperfection can be freely acknowledged – who else has no sin? who can expect to equal God? And I am saved, in the end – let grace abound.
But if we turn from this introspection to consider Christ, the vague self-satisfaction of, “I am as good as you other humans,” becomes uncomfortable and starts shifting in its seat. Here is another human – yet when posed the questions I use to compare myself to others, Jesus can say, “No, I have not sinned. No, I cannot ‘compare myself’ to God: I am God.” And not only does Jesus live His perfect life, He then dies His perfect death and in His perfection overcomes death – in order that I might live, and you might live, and those awkward people over there might live (and likely better than me), if only they will acknowledge His Name and come to Him.
The Resurrection is easy to glamorize. This Man rose from the dead! His life gives us life! And living is easy – at least for those of us with easy lives, and I have one of those. If we read Scripture correctly, though, I wonder: does it not seem like our “life” on this earth is to be compared to Christ’s life and suffering on this earth? By this I do not mean that we should abandon the really good things God sends us: instead, we are instructed to put away the pleasant follies and comfortable sins for the sake of the witness to Christ. If Jesus, God, could put aside real power and knowledge and infinity for some thirty years to bring us His life, we can, should, must, in imitation of Him (but not in our own confidence) put aside the trivial things and useless idolizing we in our pursuit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil have fallen into.
And this seems hard, and awkward, and uncomfortable. Much easier – for someone like myself, at any rate, as I think of things intellectually first and only then in physical reality, or with emotion – to live in the sun of “believe” and kick the “repent” under the couch when visitors come over while making only the expected show of “love”. Then maybe this is the use of Lent. I would never try to tell someone that they “must” – likely not even that they “should” observe the season: I take little notice of it myself, beyond my delight in noting signs and seasons for reasons mostly numerical. I doubt anything I written is a great insight on the matter. But as someone who (despite my love of clouds and rain) prefers the comfort, the season’s contemplation is useful to me.