My friend recently had a near death experience that brought him face to face with
his mortality. It was, all at once, terrifying and a miracle. It changed his
life. He said it was like he was in the Matrix, (referring to the movie of
1999) and just awakened to realize it. It was a paradigm shift! When the lights
come on, they illumine what you want to see AND what you do not want to see.
That’s what it is like to genuinely face mortality, to bump up against human
limits, to realize I am in the hands of the Eternal God, that I will die and I
have nothing to say about it. It is terrifying and life-giving all at once.
Lent is a season when followers of Jesus mimic Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness
when he was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). It is like Jesus’ own near
death experience. The devil’s temptations intend to convey Jesus’ experience of
squarely facing his own mortality’s relationship to the augustness of Eternity.
In this scary position Jesus refused to rely on his own resources and relied
instead, only on God’s word, which in the end gave him the victory.
For 40 days (not counting Sundays) we mimic Jesus. We do something different
(extra worship, certain worship themes, personal devotional acts, etc…) to
help us face our own mortality and limits, in light of being in the hands of the
Eternal One. We dedicate ourselves to letting go of foolish self-reliance,
relying instead on God’s word to us in Jesus Christ, his path, his cross. The 40
days of Lent end in a crescendo of the great three days, Good Friday, Easter
Vigil and the Resurrection of our Lord. The entire event, Lent and Easter,
point again to our circumstance in relationship to the Eternal One. It is
terrifying and life-giving all at once, for our God is mighty and merciful.