You may not be a church goer, but the word ‘Lent’ may still strike a certain chord. Perhaps it resonates with the past – a Christian upbringing which may or may not have proved helpful to you in later life, leaving you only with bad memories. Lent is perhaps the worst of them. As a result, Lent is no more than a season for self improvement, often accompanied by guilt. Lent is a time when we take ourselves in hand by cutting back on what we eat or drink. Cutting back on things which can get the upper hand in our lives is not a bad thing, but it is not the real meaning of Lent.
Lent is about looking deeper into ourselves and trying to understand what brought us to where we are now. It is not just a matter of getting back in control with regard to food, drink, smoking or whatever. It is about facing up to the person who turns to these things out of need – chiefly emotional need. Facing up to the needy person inside ourselves takes us to a ‘wilderness’ place. This is the significance of Christ going into the wilderness to be tempted there by Satan. Satan represents the negative and destructive which lurks in all of us but which disguises itself as good, necessary and perfectly permissible. Satan also represents our self delusions – the things we try to convince ourselves that we are, or that we need to become, in order to do what? Win or ‘keep’ someone’s love? Prove that we are ‘something’ or someone? Deny the reality of ageing?
Looking at the wilderness in ourselves is the most frightening task we ever have to undertake. We cannot undertake it alone. We can only really look at our wilderness and stay there long enough to want to change it if we are in the company of the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. That person is Christ who, in the wilderness he experienced, engages with ours today.
Personal mentors such as close friends, competent psychiatrists, church people you know and like, can all be Christ to you at this time by helping you to face your own wilderness. Seek out such a person. But, most importantly, seek Christ.