The Lenten season is a solemn time of reflection about my life, my place in the world, and my relationship with God, Christ, and others in the world. From year to year, I have observed the season differently. Some years I have chosen something to give up, but more recently I have devoted more time to devotional reading and prayer early in the morning since that seems to be more meaningful for me.
Since I have been in seminary, I have begun to think of salvation in relational terms: about my relationship with the Divine; my relationships with those who are most important in my life; my relationships with strangers and care seekers I encounter working as a chaplain; and with all of creation. My Lenten reflections quickly expose my failures and my complicity in the brokenness in the world, but they also offer hope in the knowledge that God is tenacious and unwilling to give up on humankind and creation.
Prior to the pandemic, our world was becoming increasingly polarized. The trend resulted from nationalistic fervor, an increased emphasis on individualism over responsibility for community, a fundamental distrust of institutions, and other social influences. The pandemic only exacerbated the problem by requiring us to isolate ourselves for our own protection and for the protection of others. Many people I meet now seem spiritually numbed by all that we have been through.
The creation narrative in Genesis 2 makes clear that God knows it is not good for us to be alone; we need relationships with others. God recognizes Adam’s aloneness and loneliness and creates Eve to be his partner. When Adam and Eve are disobedient, they recognize their brokenness and need for redemption; they need God.
The Lenten season provides an opportunity for us to repent, to turn toward the God who knows our need for relationship and redemption, and to find hope in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is in that hope that we can model discipleship by imitating Christ and serving God as Paul exhorts.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4, NRSV)
May it be so.
Ron Crawford is a seminary student in the M.Div. program at Claremont School of Theology. He has completed one unit of CPE at Carle BroMenn Medical Center and the Carle Cancer Institute and works part time as a chaplain at Carle Eureka Hospital. He serves as an elder at Eureka Christian Church in Eureka, IL. Ron, his wife Terri, and their dog Sydney live in Washington, IL.