Tonite I had the opportunity to watch a movie with my GRACE Group. The theme of how to live life well was prevalent in the film, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Lent is a journey from death to new life – we start on Ash Wednesday, acknowledging the fragility of our lives, the ease with which we sin, the sacrifice of Christ which was necessary for our salvation. And then for 40 days we walk toward Easter – that morning when life triumphed over death. The grave was empty and the world made new. My colleague/friend/teammate Geoff is fond of saying you can’t really GET Easter unless you’ve done the full journey. You have to have Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, a long silent Saturday before you get to celebrate the Resurrection.
Slowly, I’m coming to the belief that you have to have journeyed properly through Lent. Not just giving up chocolate or swearing. Not just singing some of the hymns that are written in minor keys (goodness, the Lent section of our hymn book is a tad on the dreary side, isn’t it?). Not just acknowledged Lent with your lips.
But actually walked that whole journey. You have to have stood, slightly awkward with a smudgy cross on your forehead, aware of your sin, on Ash Wednesday. Thought, acted, prayed and read your way through the weeks of Lent. Each day with the cross looming on the horizon. Each day with the thought and question of what it all means. Taken Communion on Maundy Thursday. Wept on Good Friday. Tried – knowing it was impossible – to get back to what the disciples must have felt on that long, quiet Saturday.
Only then, can Easter Sunday really be celebrated. Because Easter is something like life. You cannot fast-forward through it to get to the parts you like. You cannot simply have a montage and a cool song to deal with all that will happen on the journey (don’t you sometimes wish life was a movie?). You cannot understand the ending unless you’ve experienced the beginning and all the (sometimes boring) bits in the middle.
Living well doesn’t happen suddenly because you wanted it to. It happens slowly, over time. It is the result of a thousand little decisions. It is the choices you make in front of others and in private. It is the meal you shared with others and all the ones you ate alone. It is the failures that lead to an eventual success. Living well is more than the sum of its parts – it is all the parts themselves put together that somehow make a good life. And if you take your eyes off the goal, it is so very easy to get lost.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 NRSV
Jesus came that we might live well. That was his purpose – to give life. And he contrasts it with the thief’s (read: enemy, Satan, evil) purpose.
During this season of Lent, may we take the time to think about how we are living. May we journey through each day with the cross looming on the horizon. May we draw closer to the One who came to give abundant life.