Growing up, our family would occasionally road trip. Sometimes it was to visit the grandparents. Other times it was to spend a few days at a lake somewhere, trying (and failing) to catch fish. Wherever we were headed, once my brothers and I were loaded into the far back seat of our family station wagon (with the classic rear-facing seat) it was only a matter of moments before one of us could be heard asking “how long until we get there?”
How long until we get there? Even as an adult, I still find myself asking variations on that question. “How long until the project is done?” “How long until winter is over?” “How long until the Vikings win a Super Bowl?” (on second thought, don’t answer that last question)
Sometimes, I have approached the season of Lent the same way. Though I know it’s just 40 days, this season of waiting, of prayer, of reflection and repentance can sometimes just seem like an obstacle on the way to Easter; and it seems like it can last forever. It’s like I’m back in the rear seat of the station wagon, thinking to myself “how long?”
One of my seminar professors taught me to embrace the season of Lent. Yes, it’s 40 days that can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for the joy of Easter. But it’s also a time when we can pause, take a breath, think, wonder, pray and evaluate. It is a time of prayer, of repentance and of turning away from the things that distract us from the Holy and turning back towards the God who is always turned towards us.
Lent may not be a road trip, but it a journey. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, from repentance to celebration, from here to there. And like any trip, we can dread the journey, or we can embrace and experience it.
May your Lenten season be one of prayer and reflection, of wonder and imagination, of repentance and growth, and of looking ahead with anticipation of the coming joy.
How much longer? 40 days. How long will it feel? That part is up to you.
This article first appeared in the “Pastor’s Perspective” column of the Owatonna People’s Press, February 29, 2020