It was the beginning of lent and I was only 22 and I had no idea what lent even was. I was the kind of 22 year old who ran as far as I could way from Jesus rather than a follower but in the middle of a Lenten night I was awake.
I was exhausted with life, depressed and ‘coming down’.
Suddenly I felt like I heard a voice, ‘It’s time to come back now Mark’. Everything changed from that moment on. Jesus was calling me and I could hear it.
Lent is a season that the Church across the world practices every year, it starts on ‘Shrove Tuesday’ aka ‘Pancake Day’ and runs roughly 40 days leading up to Easter. The word ‘Lent’ comes from an old German word meaning ‘spring’ but the church’s practice finds its origins about 1800 years ago in the Egyptian desert where they would baptise new disciples at Easter. Each disciple would go through 40 days of serious prayer and preparation as they approached their public declaration of faith and their renunciation of any other way other than the way of Jesus. In the desert they would learn things about themselves and things about God but most of all they would learn how to be a disciple.
Lent is for the training of disciples.
1. Lent is about leaving:
Lent zings with Jesus’ call. Leave the old ways, the coping mechanisms, the bad habits and the escape strategies. Leave the patterns of hurt and hate, boredom and self-centeredness. Leave them behind and come to me. Lent is a opportunity to acknowledge our own broken choices and seek practical healing.
2. Lent is about resisting:
Lent is not just about accepting Jesus’ call to follow him. It is also about resisting the other calls that press in on you and competes for the disciples head, heart and hands. Lent draws on Jesus’ own 40 day temptation (Lk 4:1-13) and invites us to flee temptation (2 Tim. 2:22-24). It is a chance to come back, to enter into new discipline and training that helps us be in the world but not of it (Jn 17:16).
3. Lent is about listening:
Our world, our communities, towns, villages, cities, the friends we have, the things we read and listen to, the trends we follow, all of these are silently able to harden us to Jesus and mess up our ability to hear from God. Lent cries out with the Apostle Paul, ‘Do not be conformed!’ (Rom 12:2) and the Apostle James ‘Resist the enemy!’ (James 4:7).
4. Lent is about being wild to the world:
This is why Lent is important to you, you are called to be wild to the world. Not called to escape the world but be eagerly wait and seek glimpses of the new world that is coming (Rev. 21). Practice things that show the wild nature of the God who heals, who saves, who delivers. Be cunning to avoid the worldly versions of discipleship which seek to conform us. Wipe away what has dulled your eyes to the Life-Light that is coming into the world (John 1:9-13 msg). Lent is a time when God says it is time to come back now, wake up, be made new, again, and again, and again. Can you hear him this Lent?