Often, we enter into the Lenten season with a list of things we won’t be doing – eating meat, drinking coffee, facebooking. But I have been encouraged by two different sources to fill this year’s Lent with motion forward instead of motion against. Today I’ll share the first such influence, the second tomorrow.
The first comes from a bishop in the Anglican Church. In His fresh-off-the-press Lenten devotional, he begins with a familiar Lenten text: “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5).
I’m reminded by this text that my source of spiritual strength always, but not inevitably, comes from God. Whatever I can muster up in my own flesh and mind is not enough to get me anywhere. To the degree that I tap into the Lord’s strength, I have the possibility of spiritual progress.
It seems obvious. We get tired, so we sleep to renew our strength. We get weak, so we eat to renew our strength. These rhythms are engrained into our lives, and need no explanation, no convincing. We just do them, because … well, if we don’t, we’ll be at first miserable, and eventually die. Spiritually speaking, it is clear from our text, and from personal experience, that not everyone finds their strength in God. Rather, many (I would say most) live their lives in their own strength.
And I do, too, on all-too-many occasions. Why in the world would I do that?!?!?
The couplet of our verse today indicates the motion-forward that remedies our weak, under-charged existence. Our strength is in God – our hearts are set on pilgrimage. We are empowered as we move toward the goal. We are strong in that we are seeking. Much like bodily exercise, the counter-intuitive reality is that we develop our muscles as we exert our muscles. No pain, no gain.
The Lenten season calls for spiritual fortitude. We don’t get this by not sinning. We get this in our active pursuit of God. So, this year, I am going to celebrate and practice a Lent of doing, not of not-doing. I’m going to set my heart on a pilgrimage to the very face of the Lord … believing that, as I’m heading there, I’ll find renewed strength to live a holy life.
What will that pilgrimage be? We’ll pick this up tomorrow…