From Suffering into Resurrection: 40 Days of Lent

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Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. How I understand this (with my Dutch Reformed roots, whoo-hoo Pentecostal tendencies, friends in every denomination imaginable, a non-denominational church I treasure and a belief that I can find Jesus in every person I encounter) is that this 40-day period marks a deliberate journey into suffering. It comes with great Purpose, however. We are invited on this journey–into the heart of pain and suffering–so we may ultimately walk out of the grave and be taken up in the fullness of Life that the Resurrection holds for each of us.

Ou natural selves prefer to look away from suffering. Our very humanness wants to walk in comfort, definitely not suffering. But: “With or without our permission, with or without our understanding, eventually suffering comes, writes Joan Chittister in The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life. It’s not something we can avoid.

This year, I will embark on this journey in two ways:
1. Embracing the parts of me that need resurrecting
In Mark 8:34, Jesus says: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
The Message puts it this way: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how … Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Part of my journey–my cross, is this:

2. Journeying into the Heart of Suffering, especially as it relates to women and therefore children, on the Earth.
Several years ago, I was invited on a journey into suffering. It wasn’t my own suffering, but the suffering of women on the earth. My first reaction, when asked to collaborate on this book/journal project was to think: “I’m not an abused woman. This is not my issue.” God soon changed my heart, by showing me the very heart of God for those who suffer.

When we look at the stories of suffering, pain, violation and destruction it is easy to get overwhelmed. I think the larger story of women on the earth, in fact, wants to overwhelm us to the point of paralysis. There is something there for us to unveil, however. We are called to speak of the injustices, to uncover the cloak of darkness that comes with violence and suffering.

Suffering is often married to isolation. During Lent, however, we connect as the global Body of Christ to agree: “We are not alone,” writes Chittister. “We walk with the church throughout the world on this journey to renewal. We walk, too, with the One who has gone before us to bring us home again.”

Lent, then, is a journey home. I hope you will join us.

Q: What is your perspective on Lent?
Do you practice Lent?
How will you enter into this journey to the cross?

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