The one liturgical season focused on us, Lent is only a Christian name for self-improvement if we don’t encounter Christ in all that navel-gazing. So, before Easter excitement erases all, let’s ask one question: Did Lent work?
During Lent, each week worshipers brought a rock to the front of the church in response to a self-examination question. After five weeks we have quite a pile of rocks in front of the altar–good job! In ancient times, a rock pile signified the place where God was met. For example, the Israelites piled up rocks where they ended their desert journey and entered the promised land so that later generations could identify the place of that blessing. Our rocks, representing hundreds of moments of self-examination and repentance, should also signify the place where we met God. Does it?
Lent is only a Christian name for self-improvement if we don’t encounter Christ in all that navel-gazing.
To answer, we need to recognize a Christ-encounter. Biblical imagination doesn’t always help because we can assume that the dramatic stories of conversion are the only ways Christ is present in our lives. Emphasizing drama is short-sighted. Jesus invites us to walk in his ways, and that’s a long-haul journey. In baptism, the sacramental sign of beginning, we choose sides, picking Christ’s way of life and rejecting other loyalties and enticements.
Meeting Christ in Lenten rocks, means the possibility of change. Not that we found a way of perfection, but the encounter with Christ does mean we step forward. Insights, courage, ending a particular temptation or thought pattern–all these can be signs of Christ in our lives. What makes these steps in faith, as opposed to steps in self-improvement, is that strength from outside. We are not alone in facing ourselves.
Lenten rituals don’t guarantee inspiration. We can always stay put with our old excuses and judgments. Rocks can just be rocks. Before we rush headlong into Holy Week, let’s consider: Did Lent work for you? Answer it here and share.