Lent has arrived just in time. The discipline of being with Jesus in the desert is conducive to the somber reflection that comes naturally to me these days. I go there with him every dawn, and discover a little of what it means to die to self. I sit at his feet and he teaches me. For the next 39 days, I expect to be tested daily. Yes, this is a season of preparation and anticipation. It is also a time of apprehension. Jesus won’t get out of it alive.
The Jesus we observe during Lent does the shockingly unexpected. Instead of taking the road to victory, as everyone hoped he would, he takes the road to the cross—the via crucis. He subverts power, and then allows himself to be crushed by it. He becomes the scarred God, weak and wretched. When I consider his stripes, I am at first appalled. How badly broken must he become before he dies? Knowing that he has traveled down a road tortured by pain and doubt unlike anything I’ll ever know gives me courage. He becomes the God of blood and despair for a reason. He wants me and the rest of us to live, and to do so fearlessly. We can't get there without someone paying the price.
It’s the longing of my heart to be with him—now, today, in this world, and tomorrow in his. I am being tested to see if I’m really serious about this proposition. God has reason to doubt. He allowed his son to be tested in the desert to prove that the world did not have a claim on him. Anyone serious about following him will be asked to do the same. I’m learning something about what this means. Dying is not the issue. Dying to self apparently is.