Lent is not a Season

assorted color flower field during daytime

I knew something was wrong. This something had no words, just feeling. Nothing I observed resembled the unthinking epithets hurled in common conversation. Words like lazy and phrases evincing the sentiment, “they’re not like us” plus more, worse and unprintable. Daniel was none of these. I knew him to be kind, gentle, talented, and smart. He was black. The epithets did not match the man I knew.

My mind, young, impressionable, and tender, tried to reconcile the two worlds. While the words escaped me, I knew it was not the everyday black and white commentary. No, in reflection, it was the abyss between those prevalent attitudes expressed by good Christian people I admired and the reality I discovered spending time with Daniel. I realized both could not be true. I chose Daniel, but likely, he chose me. A truth often arrives before words.

Riding my bike to the club every day to see Daniel, to play golf, to learn, to revel in youthful freedom, those summer seasons faded as seasons must. Remaining, growing, finding a home in me is the truth I observed watching Daniel. When the words finally came, I knew the complexity in the abyss had its purpose.

Lent has its own purpose. These forty days are not without significance. Embedded in church history, Lent is a time to remember our baptism, to engage in self-examination and penitence, to attempt to reconcile the abyss between our heart and God. If we’re sincere, our reflection urges us to confront our outward, visible signs and our inward truth, not as a symbol, but in a daily life devoted to God. But as Christians, giving up and taking on cannot be confined to a season.

For me, I always experienced these forty days as if something was wrong with the observance. Unable to fathom any deep, perceptible reason for giving up something as symbolic and shallow as chocolate, Lent, I thought, teetered on earning. It seemed to be tainted with thoughtless routine. “Giving up” paled against those who had lost everything precious or life had stripped away or never provided, like Daniel.

But like my friend, Daniel, the truth came before the words. My stumbling block rested in the fallacy of choice. Choosing arouses a sense of earning salvation. Even in giving up tokens, I remembered I did not find Christ. Christ found me. I remembered Daniel’s gentle nature in the face of a harsh world. I remembered lying on a gurney, a heartbeat from eternity. Lent is not about choosing; it is about depending on the fullness of God’s grace because even Christians can be wrong.

Dependence only knows the season we call life, the season between dust to dust, the abyss we must reconcile. I am glad for the contradictions, the complexities and the confusion. Lent for me has been a life, not a season, ruminating on the divide, quickening toward repentance, compelling me to examine the truths before the words.

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

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