This year, Lent is front-and-center for me. Not just the themes—self-examination, repentance, self-sacrifice, Jesus’ suffering and death—but also the emotions and actions that accompany those ideas.
The cruel barbarism of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine evokes my condemnation for this once-mighty country’s leader. The relentless, random bombardment of civilians recalls all the horrors that war-mongers wreak on the world. The endless flow of refugees into neighboring countries reminds me how evil’s consequences ripple throughout time and space.
Lent’s not about someone else’s sins, though. I’ve not engaged fully in the profundities of Lent by being angry about a dictator’s malevolence. What Lent invites instead is my attention to the most fundamental truths about my own sins, perhaps smaller versions of what I see writ large by this growing war.
I also act on my worst impulses. I’m part of an economic system that plunders the planet’s people and resources. I justify my disregard of others as a righteous reaction to what I label as their sinfulness. I don’t repent or relent, even when called out for my sins. I can’t get anywhere close to loving my enemies or turning the other cheek. I continue to rely on myself as the primary source of rescue or safety. I hide my faults behind pleasant facades.
If I want to be earnest and honest about Lent this year, I’d have to admit that I’m so anxious about my own safety—this war could spread towards a nuclear holocaust—that I can’t see what’s right in front of me: The power of God to cleanse and free me from self-indulgent wrong-doing, so that I can follow Jesus’ way as fully as possible.
Thankfully, there’s still time for Lent to soak into my soul. I earnestly hope that will happen.
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