I hate winter. If you know anything about me, you know this. I value sunshine and warmth, long days at the lake and sunburns from wake surfing too long. Sailboats and board shorts, breezyfront porches and cold sweet tea. Winter just seems so... dead. In the dark, cold months after fall I get cranky. I forget to notice the beauty of the world around me. I think a part of me starts to lose hope.
And then it happens. Spring. One warm weekend, and I emerge from hibernation and feel the renewal and expectation that comes with spring in Georgia. Saturdays in Piedmont Park. The Masters golf tournament. Renewed life! I think that's why I love Easter so much. I can't help but believe it's a physical manifestation of what is happening spiritually during the season of Lent.
Forty days before Easter, many Christians around the world agree to give something up for the season of Lent. We agree to sacrifice. When I was younger, I remember my dad giving things up for those 40 days. One year it was chocolate, another year, Coke, still another year, dessert. I however, was less noble in my efforts. Vegetables, baths, and homework were perennial favorites, and to my dismay, my mom wasn't exactly supportive of my commitment to serve God by refraining from broccoli. Obviously I was missing the point.
The purpose of these sacrifices isn't to make ourselves miserable in some extended act of penance. Just the opposite. It's a way of acknowledging that we are alone and lost without the presence of a Savior. It's a way of pressing in with our Creator and preparation for what is to come. Just as the barren ground in winter is being prepared for the renewal of spring, so should we prepare to renew our hope in the grace that God has offered us.
I pray that this season, we remember that each person we come into contact with is longing for redemption. And that the only hope for that redemption comes from Jesus. From the bed-ridden parent in a Mombasa slum to the high powered investment banker in New York, we all feel the burden of shortcoming and our inability to deal with the effects of sin ourselves. It is a heavy thing to mourn the heart of God, and Christ's crucifixion is a graphic and painful reminder that we are fallen an imperfect people.
But the story doesn’t end there. The power of our sin was, is, and always will be less than the power of God's love for us. Resurrection is eminent. And in the coming days and weeks, the world will shout the hope of new life that God desires for us. How cool is that? Every budding tree tells God's story of forgiveness, each blossoming flower, the beauty of His grace.