A New Perspective

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 4, 2018

By: Alan Barlow

I must admit that I am relatively new to Lent. Though I was baptized into the Episcopal Church as a young child, I suppose my family lacked staying power. My earliest memories of church are faint snapshots of the Sunday School classroom, argyle knee socks, and the uncomfortable pews that my family and I occupied with some regularity. As I grew older, church equated to Christmas Eve, and—by the time I was 8 years old or so—church had pretty much disappeared altogether. Easter, filled with bunnies and brunch, arrived each year with little thought dedicated to the 40 days preceding it.

It was not until I married my wife Ashley that I re-engaged with the Episcopal Church and acquainted myself with the observance of Lent in full earnest. At first, Lent made me feel uncomfortable. I felt unpracticed at the introspection and acknowledgment of sin the season requires. It was unnatural and, for me, Lent became a dark, cold chapter in an already dark, cold part of the year. All in all, Lent was a bit of a downer.

With the passage of time, however, my perspectives on Lent have evolved. I was surprised to learn that the old English meaning of Lent is “spring.” In many ways, that makes sense. Lent should spur growth. After all, Lent leads us to and helps us prepare for the glory and joy Easter brings.

I have come to view Lent as a period of enormous opportunity instead of an occasion for guilt. I am now drawn to Lent because it creates the space for a reset: the chance to pause, take stock of the areas in my life that have strayed from God, and do my best to repent, not necessarily as a form of remorse but as a commitment to turn or return to God and the path He has set out for us. As the Rev. Bob Hetherington often reminds us, we must acknowledge that the forces of evil within us and within our broader community are very real, requiring us to actively and purposefully “show up” and “lean in.” I see Lent as an occasion to do just that.