WE TEND TO approach Lent passively. Some of that is appropriate. After all, we start Lent by putting ashes on our heads to symbolize our grief, and grief often makes us more still. But Lent is a season of intentional activity. To repent is to shift course. We continue to move, but in a different direction. We walk with God, following where God leads, no matter what we must leave behind.
This journey eventually leads to the cross, and later to resurrection. That’s when we find the journey has just begun. We were made to seek God, to question, to be in tension with mystery, to wrestle with God like Jacob, and to eventually find what we’re looking for. And when we come into contact with God in whatever ways are possible, we realize we cannot serve this God as one would serve an idol. We cannot operate out of empty ritual or rote adherence to any custom. We can’t appease or bribe this God. This God is not confined to our shrines, nor does God thrive off our material gifts and sacrifices. What this God wants is much more profound: repentance, trust, and a complete reorientation of one’s heart away from self and toward companionship with God. Many who’ve prepared to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage did so by training on their own trails for months before making the trek. Lent similarly trains us for a lifelong journey of resilience, trust, and resistance to the forces of evil and despair.