Lenten Reflections: Week One

Today was a warm day for Minnesota in March. We're supposed to see 40s and 50s most of the week. The snow is starting to thin back (the three to four foot piles are down to two feet). Grass is showing around the edges. It rained a little bit today amidst a mostly sunny day. I've hung clothes on the line several times this past month. We're on the cusp of a new season.

Of course, with the thaw comes not only flowers and green grass, but all the litter that has been buried this winter (or just tossed on the sidewalk today). Spring is refreshing, but it's seldom clean--which usually made it all the more fun for us as kids. Puddles to splash in, mud to carve river channels through, dirty remnants of snow drifts. But the litter that arises in the city just reminds me that that pure, white snow could only hide our dirty habits; it couldn't cleanse us.

Rain can be cleansing. I can also just melt the snow and leave all the trash behind along with mud everywhere. Most of Minnesota is preparing for the flooding that we're assured will come with the Spring thaw. Water can be restorative and life-giving. It can also be horrendously destructive.

This past week the world watched as Japan was hit by the fifth most powerful earthquake in recorded history along with a massive tsunami that literally wiped out entire villages. The images were heart-breaking and devastating (and at the same time a bit fascinating as we saw the sheer power of what was unleashed). None of us can imagine; all of us want to help.

And surrounding all of this is the Lenten journey. Some of us fast or give things up during Lent to help us identify with Jesus' suffering. But the pictures of Japan on the news are constant reminders that most of us know little about real suffering. Giving up chocolate for a few weeks is nothing compared with having your loved ones and all you have washed out to sea.

Still, Lent is not about comparing our woes with others' but about focusing on Christ and learning more about ourselves. I have been giving up social networking: mostly Facebook as I still haven't figured out how I would use Twitter. I didn't give it up because in doing so I would find suffering, but I did so because I know it can become a large distraction for me during my days.

I do miss some of the friends I connect with during the week on Facebook. But it is nice to not have the diversions that Facebook brings about (especially as I am trying to get a sermon finished for Sunday). The thing I miss most, though, I noticed today, are the email notifications I get when someone posts on my wall or when they respond to something I posted.

I like to get things in the mail, too. Sometimes I think I order used books online (instead of checking them out from the library) because I like the anticipation of knowing the mail carrier will one day deliver a package for me. But I think I enjoy getting the email notifications from Facebook because it's kind of an ego trip. I like it when someone enjoys something I've said. I like it when someone is thinking about me and sends me a note. Part of me still has that high-school-desire to be popular. I want to be liked. I want to be wanted. And this isn't a bad thing. But I can't let that desire overshadow who I am called to be.

And so my Lenten journey continues, and I continue to learn more about myself as I look upon the Messiah who made His way to Jerusalem, knowing that His journey would end on Golgotha. As I discover more about myself--my struggles, faults and weaknesses especially--I can also discover who Christ calls me to be. More like Him (and paradoxically that means more like me). A servant. A lover. A beloved. If I have said I will follow Him (if I claim to bear the name "Christian"), then I must be willing to be like Him for that's what being a disciple means, that we live to learn the ways of our Master. It won't be an easy road ahead. But it will be a good road. And I will be in good company.

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