by the Rev. Ralen M. Robinson
“At once, the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12-13)
“Why do I have to give something up?” “Why forty days?” “Lent is too long.” Those are the questions and comments I made to my mother growing up when it was time for Lent. To a kid, Lent was hard, and even as an adult, it was a challenge. For forty days, we are called to look at our mortality, at the broken cracks of the world, and to see God in all of it.
Christmas is over, the Star of David has found a little baby Jesus swaddled in the manger, wrapping paper is discarded, and presents are a faint memory. Now that Christmas and New Year’s excitement are over, we are in the middle of the winter season, eagerly awaiting warmer weather. The excitement and joyous celebration of Advent is a faint memory. We are in the midst of winter when frost covers the ground; barren trees cast shadows over a bleak world because the days are shorter and nights are longer. The excitement of Advent is dwindling, and now we are in a season of Lent. And, yet, amid the winter season, which seems desolate, barren, and at times bleak, I struggled and at times still do. I struggle not only because the days are cold, dreary, and desolate but because I struggle to find God in the swirls of gray and gloom that surround me in the winter season. Then, when the winter blues have surrounded me and the days are colorless, we are called to step into the season of Lent for forty days to fast, reflect, repent, and sacrifice like Jesus did in the desert. We are called to find God in desolate places. It’s easier to find God in the swirls of colors that dance in the spring, the swaying of the flowers in summer, and the comfort of the warm breeze; it is harder to find God in the frozen world. And yet, without Lent, there is no Easter morning.
The season of Lent gives us opportunities for pause, spiritual preparation, and reflection. For 40 days, we prepare ourselves by stepping into Jesus’s last footsteps to the cross and into the Resurrection at Easter. In the frozen world, we carve out 40 days to see God in the most unlikely places and find our faith in the mundane. Lent causes us to slow down, be present, reflect and refocus our lives on Christ. We return to the basics of our faith without the hoopla, and it’s just us and God. That can be intimidating and hard to do because who wants to look at the hard truths and strip themselves bare?
Lent causes the rose-colored glasses to be removed, and we see the weariness of life, the blemishes of humanity, and the brokenness of the world. But we also see God in the dirty faces of humanity, in fractured relationships, and the barrenness of the world.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
During this season, let us strive to be patient and kind, to cast aside envy and pride, and to focus on the uplifting aspects of love through our faith. Let us find God in the desolate of winter because Lent allows us to shed the burdens that may weigh us down, see God in a new light, and foster a spirit of renewal and growth. Lent allows us to look closely at the frayed lines that connect us to our neighbor and mend it. It allows us to look in the mirror and see the work we must do.
So, as we step each day toward the Resurrection, let us be reminded of God’s unwavering love, which guides us in this period of introspection. It is the same love and strength given to Jesus in the wilderness. May our hearts be filled with the warmth of love and the courage to reflect on the areas where we can grow. Let us use this season to uplift one another, strengthen our faith, and give us clarity to see the world and people in the same light God sees us.
I wish you a season of love, reflection, and spiritual fulfillment.
Gracious Lord, as the frost covers the ground, the flowers are still hidden underneath, and the cold wind swirls around us, we are reminded of your presence, warmth, and love. Thank you for reminding us that you are with us even in the desolate winter. You are with us as we clasp our jackets for warmth. You are with us as the sun sets early and the shadows dance across the world. Amen.
- What brings you joy in the winter season?
- What do you struggle with in Lent? How do you find joy?
- Where is God in the desolate season of winter?
Ralen M. Robinson is a Pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS. When she is not pastoring she is pursuing her Doctorate of Ministry in Homiletics, serves as a board member of Child Protective Services of Sedgwick County, and participates in leadership roles in the wider church. Ralen believes her faith and a good pair of shoes can take you a long way.