Lent is just one season of the Church year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost are the others. Rightly so, the Church sees Lent as a forty day season of penitence. The synonyms for penitence in a Thesaurus range from shame, repentance, atonement, contrition, remorse, regret to sorrow. There seems to be a range of negativity in those synonyms. Many of us do not need to be reminded of our need for penitence, while others of us do need to be reminded that our faith has this component to it.
Some of those synonyms are quite destructive. Shame, for instance, is something that Jesus would never do to us. Reminding us to repent, however, is something that is brought up throughout the entire Bible. Furthermore, Jesus was frequently quoted in the Gospels as proclaiming some variation of repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is complex for us to reconcile the sense of penitence without being toppled over into depression; this is not the purpose of Lent or even of our faith.
For instance, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it is C.S. Lewis who is able to give me a better appreciation of the balance of Jesus through the character of Aslan. He is the Lion in the title of the book and a clear representation of Jesus through the exact actions in his brutal, sacrificial death and his spiritual, real resurrection.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are the children who enter the world of Narnia through the Wardrobe mentioned in the title. Two of the characters in Narnia are Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. They invite the children to dinner. Over the meal, an otherworldly conversation turns to the Lion Aslan. The children all begin to develop a strange feeling just upon hearing his name. Lucy bravely asks if Aslan is safe. Safe? said Mr. Beaver. Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you. Toward the end of the book, Mr. Beaver says, He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.
We cannot tame Jesus, yet we cannot be frightened of him either. It is a delicate balance. The Collects or Prayers for the season of Lent can be found in The Book of Common Prayer on pages 166-169 for Rite One and pages 217-221 for Rite Two. Those prayers all provide incredibly accurate summaries and maintain that delicate balance for that specific Sunday of Lent. You are encouraged to read through them all, and as a part of your Lenten discipline to read the prayer for the upcoming Sunday.
Give yourself over to the commitment and joy found in Lent during Lent this year of 2018. Treat yourself. See where the journey takes you. I can write in full assurance that Lent never ends with pain and death but points to new life and resurrection. There was a full cross; there was an empty grave. That too is our faith.