Last week, we entered Lent. During Lent, we prepare our hearts for Easter by looking inward and repenting. Easter is full of joy, hope, and new life. Lent has the bad reputation of being a downer.
Lent is supposed to be an honest time when we ask how we fall short of God’s perfection. We pause and ask ourselves questions. Although giving up chocolate or something else is supposed to remind us of this journey, candid introspection can yield greater spiritual growth than going without something.
When we look inside and find our own rough edges, we can turn those over to God. Doing so isn’t magic, and we do not use incantations to control God’s response. Instead, we surrender the parts of ourselves that take us away from the divine. Doing so presents us with the opportunity to grow. Even though growth can be painful, getting to the other side is part of the spiritual journey. Surgery isn’t fun but we are healthier after. Authentic introspection can be difficult but can lead to a healthier spiritual life.
Getting better, or knowing we are on a path to a healthier spiritual life, is a reason to be joyful. Little reminders of growth are helpful. Whether these reminders come from seeing a spring flower and thinking about resurrection, or feeling peace in a stressful situation, God’s Spirit is moving all around us. When we look for it, we can find it (Matthew 7.7).
The challenge is to find joy during a season of repentance. Just like seeing God’s movement and presence, when we seek joy, we can find it. Flowers are blooming. Covid rates are declining. People are finding safe ways to gather. With opportunities to socialize, isolation can fade. Hope is alive, or, as Alexander Pope wrote in his poem:
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.“An Essay on Man: Epistle I” Alexander Pope
“Hope springs eternal…” and Lent will give way to Easter. Sursum corda! (Or, Lift up your hearts!)