Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16.8-9)
If we approach Lent as a season, we measure it by days: 40, 39, 38, etc. Yet when we perceive it as a journey, we measure it by steps—one after another, each taken one moment at a time. In this regard, then, Lent doesn’t begin with Ash Wednesday. It starts the minute our feet touch the floor and our hearts turn toward God’s will and direction. Every step is marked by keen awareness of where we are, what we’re doing, and the purpose we find in every moment.
We set out on our journey with a planned course, having searched our souls to evaluate where we should be and steeled our spirits to cross the wilderness that has prevented us from getting there. We enter this rugged country with our maps and instincts. But as Proverbs says, God ultimately determines our steps. Because of this, we cherish every step as a gift from Him.
Drop the Metaphor
Suppose we drop the metaphor and embrace Lent as an actual journey—a 40-day odyssey through our lives that we experience as something altogether new. Suppose we pray for fresh eyes and objectivity to take every step as though we were tourists in a strange land, trying to interpret and adjust to foreign customs, values, and terminology. What would we find? How would we react?
Answers to such questions vary widely from person to person. Yet I somehow suspect we’d all notice pitfalls of excess, as well as flatlands of excuse-making. Measuring Lent in steps rather than days shows us where we habitually trip over ourselves and how often we stray from our God-given purpose. It also alerts us to steps we don’t take—the lonely neighbor we never seem to get to, the quiet moments we never find, the forgiveness we never can bring ourselves to deliver. These steps are God’s gifts to us, gifts we too easily refuse when we measure our lives by time’s passage rather than true progress. Making Lent’s journey real sheds the pretense of not having enough time or energy or resources to go where we’re supposed to go and do what God uniquely created each of us to do. Getting there is a matter of taking the right steps, not finding the right time.
Better a Little
“Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice,” Solomon writes. The Lenten fast’s discipline teaches us to be content with less than usual. But the journey’s step-by-step measure encourages us to be grateful for incremental obedience and success. Every step we take, whether it’s part of the most mundane activities of our lives or a giant leap in overcoming temptation and weakness, is one more step—“a little with righteousness.” Commencing this journey with grandiose designs on the future does us a great injustice. God’s presence is revealed and felt with every step. His Spirit leads us into the wilderness and walks with us to teach us in real time as we go. And if we measure our journey one step at a time, the ways we walk and talk and think as we start will be significantly different when we finish.
I count it a true privilege to walk this journey with you, and pray you’ll find it rewarding with every step you take.
Note: We’ll mark our Lent journey together by resuming daily posts from today until Easter. I hope you’ll join us as often as possible and contribute your thoughts to this marvelous, shared experience.
Lent’s wilderness journey isn’t a metaphor; it’s a very real and literal, step-by-step reassessment of our lives.
(Tomorrow: Travel Light)