TAHOE/TRUCKEE — How should we, as Christians, observe the 40 days of Lent to strengthen our spiritual core for life's struggles? Jesus's own practice can point the way. Granted, we don't need to fast in the wilderness! But we can observe the arc of His 40-day journey to arrive somewhere new.
First, Jesus opened Himself to deep listening to God. In the moment of His baptism, Jesus heard God acknowledge Him as a Beloved child, fully pleasing, fully blessed. Whatever was to unfold next, Jesus could then face it, deeply knowing God's tender love — and His worthiness.
Then, He bravely took this insight into a place of darkness. Driven next by the Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus was suddenly without His usual comforts or companions, in a place of vulnerability. His baptism did not point an easy course forward. To become whole, to embrace the power of His ministry, Jesus needed a time of spiritual preparation.
Here He wrestled with temptation about His future, a struggle I've faced and perhaps you have, too. He had angels to sustain Him, yes, but He had to enter this wilderness and do difficult inner work — alone.
Finally, at the end of this challenging journey, Jesus emerged with good news: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” He called us to repentance — metanoia — a change of mind or heart. And with this encouraging message that we can all be healed and changed, Jesus then began to rebuild the world, with God, from the inside out. With faith beyond fear, even in the face of death.
So, I suggest we follow the heart of His practice in Lent. Set time aside to listen deeply to God. Simply do what you do with a close friend: make time to be present; sit down; be quiet; don't interrupt and listen. Do this regularly, in any place that feels safe and familiar. God will be there.
Listen to everything that comes up. Listen to what you may not want to hear about what you can change in your life. Listen also to the message of God's great love for you and your worthiness.
Then take God's love and support into some dark corner of your life. You don't have to change everything. Just look at one place of brokenness you may not have wanted to face: a relationship, a habit, a fear, an avoidance. Do this gradually and with tenderness — but with intention. To prepare for whatever comes next in your life, pain and joy, this one place deserves healing. You are promised all the angels you need to make this change, to become whole, for you are God's Beloved.
Finally, bring the healing of this 40-day practice to all around you. You don't need to witness with words. Simply bring to others the power of this year's Lenten journey — the presence of the kingdom of God — in your smile, in your compassion, in your strong spiritual core throughout life's tough challenges.
— Rev. Clare C. Novak, Interfaith Minister, Carnelian Bay, Calif.