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tree-branch-shadows-on-snowI’ve always erred on the side of positive thinking. I prefer to see my glass as half full. I choose to look on the bright side. I’m forever searching for the ubiquitous silver lining.

I like to think my sunny outlook is the perfect foil to the Eeyores and naysayers in my life. Except occasionally, it isn’t. Sometimes, my Pollyanna optimism is just annoying to those of a more pragmatic bent.

Have you ever noticed how most people fit into one or the other of those categories? Either glass half full or glass half empty? Those who focus on the aspects of a given situation which are going well and those who only see the flaws? The realists versus the idealists? Is one way of looking at life better or worse than the other?

For those of us who prefer to live in the world of sunshine and rainbows, the danger lies in our denial of the gifts found in the wintery shadows. In our relentless pursuit of the light, we miss the nuances and subtle beauty of the dark. Life is often messy and sad. Sitting with the reality of our doubt and confusion is difficult. The answers we seek are often hidden from view waiting to be uncovered. When we settle for simple answers and rush madly past the hard to get to the easier, the deeper work of waiting and wondering is stunted and we miss out on the growth which comes from the arduous work of digging.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the observance of Lent for those of us in the Christian church. Lent is about pausing in the shadows and remembering. We pause, although we might prefer to rush headlong to Easter. With the imposition of ashes, we are invited to remember the fragility of our lives on earth and the rapid passing of our years.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

Lent is an invitation to dig deeper and look more closely, particularly for those of us who would prefer to focus on only the happy, shiny parts of our faith. Yes, God is love, light, joy, and peace. We are His beloved children and we are holy and blameless through the grace of Jesus Christ. He loves us madly, deeply, truly and completely. There is nothing we could do to make Him love us more or less than He does right this minute.

Yet, there is more. He is a God of righteousness and justice. His world is still broken and hurting. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be part of the redemptive work of the Kingdom. We are called to feed the hungry, love the lonely, and give the thirsty something to drink. The work is not yet done.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

During Lent, we are offered the opportunity to pause and take inventory, to hold up our current priorities and choices in light of the path we say we have chosen. While extending ourselves the grace we have already been given, we are invited to examine the deeper places and expose them to light. Sometimes, I would rather avoid the hard questions I need to ask:

  • As I seek to know God better and live this abundant life to which I am called, what am I doing which moves me closer to Him?
  • What am I doing which gets in the way of hearing His voice clearly?
  • What distracts me from my calling? What am I willing to do to remove those distractions?
  • What gets in the way of me living out my potential as an image bearer of my Creator?
  • How could I be kinder, braver, and more loving?
  • What does it mean to do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly with my God?

I would love to hear your answers to any of the questions above as we choose to do Lent together this year. What disciplines do you observe during Lent to help you dig deeper? Do you give something up? Do you fast from something? Do you add a new or different discipline during these 40 days? 

Would you join me in pausing for a moment in the shadows this Lent? We can be brave together.