I don’t know about you, but I always get impatient at this time of year. It’s kind of spring, but it’s not really spring yet. The weather is warmer, but it’s not really warm yet. It’s spring training, but it’s not really baseball season yet. We’re so close to all these things, but we don’t quite have them yet. There’s still more cool weather to endure. There’s still more training the players have to do. The things I want are almost here, but they’re still not here. I’d like to skip this part and get to what I really want, but I can’t.
It struck me that we feel that same way about Lent a lot of times. Nobody looks forward to Lent. What we really want is to skip right over Lent and get to Easter. We want the joy that comes with knowing that Jesus was raised from the dead. We don’t want to focus on the suffering and pain that Jesus endured. We don’t want to focus on the training we still have to do.
We’d like to skip over this part, but we can’t. Not if we want Easter to really have meaning, anyway. If Jesus had not endured the pain and suffering that came with the cross, his sacrifice would’ve been meaningless. It would not even have been a sacrifice, really. If Jesus had just been miraculously taken up to heaven right after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, what would’ve been the sacrifice in that? There would be no meaningful way in which Jesus had taken the punishment for our sins, because there would’ve been no punishment.
In a similar way, if we skip over the training we have to do, Easter really does not have any meaning, either. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we have to earn our way into heaven. We could never do that, because we could never be good enough to “belong” in heaven. Still, if we take seriously the gift of salvation Jesus gave us, we need to follow Jesus. That means doing what Jesus said to do—loving God and loving others. We may do that to a certain extent, but we all can and should get better at it. There’s no meaningful way in which we’ve accepted the gift of salvation from Jesus if we do not then follow Jesus.
As the song says, the waiting is the hardest part. When God asks us to wait, though, there are reasons why. The cycles of nature are part of God’s plan, and each part of each cycle is important. The cycles of the church year are part of God’s plan, too, and each part of each cycle there is important, too. It might be more fun to skip over Lent and go to Easter. If we did, though, Easter would not have the meaning for us that it does.
Short-cuts are tempting, but they rarely are the best plan. Instead of wishing we could skip Lent, let’s take what’s left of this season to appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us and to find ways we can better love God and love others.