One of the most iconic stories we have to begin our Lenten journey is that of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Forty days, that's a long time in our world, within 40 days our landscape can change drastically. By the time we reach Easter, our Catholic Brothers and Sisters will have a new Pope, spring will have entered our lives and we will look forward to all that is in store. But for now, we wait.
As a person of faith, I think I get a little tired of waiting. We wait in Advent for the fruition of God's promise; in Lent we mournfully await the coming gloom and doom of Holy Week. None of us are really good at waiting; I think we'd all be OK with Christmas without Advent, Easter without Lent. Where's the fun in that, though?
The beauty of everything we hold dear is that it takes time. Time is a fickle friend that we humans find as our greatest ally and darkest foe. For us, time can be so incredibly drawn out if it involves a hospital visit, a conversation we don't want to have, or even a church service. For us, time can be a blink of an eye as we watch our younger years fly by, or our children grow up, or those moments we just don't want to end go fleeting into the night.
These 40 days are a reminder to us that it's not about giving up chocolate, your iPhone or Facebook; it's a reminder to us that time matters. Time is the clock ticking, the constant advocate for making moments count, for allowing God to interject God's grace in one's life. I've gotten to the point in my short 20 years that I really work hard not to take time for granted. It seems like just a second ago I entered my freshman year ready for all that was in store, those seconds I count turn out to have been two years, and now I realize my time at my undergraduate institution is half-way finished.
The tension, of course, is that I want to be in the 'real' world, sometimes I'd do anything to get out of the classroom and into the world I so desperately want to serve. This tension translates into everyone's life; it's a formula that works for each and every one of us. We're called by our Creator to enjoy the time we have here, but also to look at to what God is calling us to be.
That's the beauty of Lent; it's a reminder that God isn't finished with God's creation yet. There is still work to be done. The state of our world is sighing for newness, we enter this journey of Lent to listen to the heart of our God speaking to our broken selves.
I can remember very vividly the first time I was genuinely lost. I was a young Boy Scout in the wilderness of Grayson Highlands State Park at Mt. Rogers in Virginia. I was ready to make a difference, to leave my mark with my Scout Troop. I tried so desperately to keep up, to stay with the group who was hiking. It proved too much of a task for my young self to accomplish, without prior training I was left behind. That sense of helplessness, fear and trembling as I realized my group had no idea I wasn't with them.
Quickly, what little wilderness survival skills I had set in. I remembered from the show that I had watched years before, Barney and Friends that I should hug a tree and stay put. It was starting to get late, but the time passed as if seconds were hours, minutes were years. I knew that I was doomed; reality was setting in that when night came, it would probably be over for me.
Then, in the distance, my father, the Eagle Scout that I knew I could one day be came into sight. He wasn't panic stricken or crying like I was, he was smiling, happy to have found the son who had gotten away from the group. In those moments, all I could think about was how incredibly safe I was, how that in that instance, all was right in my world.
One-day, years later when I was being awarded my Eagle Scout award I asked my dad if he was scared that I wouldn't be found in the wilderness all those years ago. A smile crept across his face and said that the time he spent looking for me went by quickly, and that it wasn't long before he found me.
That's the paradox of time isn't it? For me, time passed by so incredibly slowly. For my dad, his time looking was quick and what seemed like painless for him. I think I can identify with the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. We spend but a moment on a Sunday morning during Lent talking about those 40 days that shaped our Lord, but for Jesus, I'm sure those grueling hours without food were slow, painful and full of that feeling of being lost.
Wilderness survival and time don't go together well, any survival expert will tell you that. So these 40 days of searching, of finding what it means to be a follower of a crucified Christ, let us all remember the time we have been given. Cherish the clock, because these moments we share together of putting ashes on our foreheads and remembering the sacrifice made for us don't come quite enough during our year. We take it for granted, and too soon those moments are gone. In our time and our place, let us give thanks that the clock is ticking, and let it give us perspective.