Speaking to a very dear friend yesterday, I was inspired to take one of two paths that seemed to lay before me in Lent. This path wanders down the road of certain classics of a mystical bent. And a good start to this wandering is a small reflection of the first chapter of the first book of Thomas á Kempis's classic The Imitation of Christ. In the first few chapters he is attacking overblown and puffed-up and pretentious knowledge--that is knowledge absent a love of Christ.
In that first chapter we find this reminder for Lent:
"It is better to experience contrition than to be able to define it."
Contrition--" And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." (Joel 2:13)
Contrition is perhaps the first turning of repentence. Regret what you have done, the time you have wasted putting a space between yourself and the Lord. And more than mere regret, act upon the knowledge of what you have done. Now is the appropriate time, now is the acceptable season--not merely because it is Lent, but because the present is the only moment we have to make any changes. We cannot walk the path alone, but we can be steadfast in our determination to walk it no matter the cost.
The season of Lent is a gift given to remind us of the necessity and value of walking close to God and speaking with Him frequently. Too often we put everything off for this season and we spend forty days in a workout. (Better forty days than none at all.) But what is the point of Lent if you start a good work and at the end of the time let it go? Lent is about changing your life, not merely for forty days but for all of eternity. It is a time to take a step closer to God and to hold your gains against the ebb and flo of the world. Don't take on the discipline of Lent with a grim determination that you'll make it through these forty days and then it will be over. Take on Lent as a joyous garment, as a coat of many colors, a gift from your Father in Heaven. Dance before the Lord in joy and hope, knowing that He wants nothing more (and nothing less) than all that you are and all that your will ever be. He wants your unstinting love, your total gift of self and in return you will get . . .
Everything. Everything. Everything that the creator of all can bestow upon you--all the love in the outstretched arms of His son, all the love of a true Father's heart, all the Love that gave rise to the Holy Spirit. You will become the true temple of the Lord's delight. You will be the palace of celebration and a sign of joy to all the world. You will be a vessel of the light of Salvation and the apple of your Father's eye.
Reach out in Joy to the Father who reaches out in joy to you. Rend your hearts, not your garments, regret the time together you could have had and let that fuel your desire to come ever nearer. Rejoice that the season of invitation is upon us once again and make good use of that season. Rejoice in the God who loves you and let that love lead to a permanent and obvious change in the way you conduct life. Nothing less is an acceptable return for the wonderful gift God gives us every day.