Practicing to Die, Practicing to Rise
Spring springs late in northern Michigan. But when it does it springs gloriously. Triumphantly yellow daffodils shoot through the cold black earth. Miraculously, green buds punch out of dead crooked branches. People escape from their coffin-like homes and wander the streets, jogging, holding hands, wandering like extras on a far happier Walking Dead series.
Up here, God practices the resurrection every May, a preview of the last day and the first day, the 8th day. No matter what clouds of gloom lay before us, you can feel the youthful wide eyed dreamy blood coursing through your veins.
So the Church practices dying and resurrecting, too. Every Sunday, I suppose, or whenever God’s people gather around that elixir, that big bang and black hole, God’s killing resurrecting words and the true blood of the eternal Spring—Jesus.
Too often people see Lent as a season of duties and disciplines. Cracking down on desires, practicing self control, letting go of gods, etc. And that’s good. But that is not all. We practice losing because one day we will lose all these things anyways. All our gods will crumble in our hands as we are laid in the earth. It is good to lose these things now instead of being shocked by their loss on the last day. It’s good to die now while we are still alive. Life can then become a little easier amidst the suffering and darkness of the world.
But if that was the ultimate goal of Lent or the Christian life then we would be no better than the stoics and nihilists of old as we march on to the Abyss.
No, Lent is not just about losing. It’s about gaining. We are not just practicing to die, but we are practicing to live, to rise again. Lent is a joyful time, ultimately. Smile and wipe off those ashes. Jesus doesn’t give us an insurance policy for the future, but He raises up today. Today, Jesus blood covers all of our sins. Today, His blood enters our mouths and hearts and flows through our veins, a blood that forgives but gives life.
The greatest joy of Lent is failing at it only to find Jesus has already done it for us! He has already conquered that evil foe. He has already answered the accuser who waves our crimes before the judge. He has already removed the sting of death. Spring has actually already begun! The night is nearly over and the day is dawning. The sun will never set again.
Do not be afraid to be happy. Stop looking over your shoulder for the bad to swallow the good. It is finished. You can practice rising from the dead now. Because you will.