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Wilderness practice 

By Josh Hunt

It was just a few years ago that Rev. Linda Nye, then one of
my student colleagues at the divinity school at Gardner-Webb University and an
Episcopal priest, invited me to her parish for Ash Wednesday. It
was my first such experience. 

The observance of Lent that year changed completely my celebration of Easter Sunday. Easter felt more victorious, more real, more celebratory, more life-affirming, more welcomed.

How could I experience Easter in such a way one year and then conscientiously choose not to celebrate it that way again? I couldn’t.

Linda Nye caused me to develop the tradition of observing Lent. I saw how it changed my spiritual life and I could not go back.

I didn’t grow up observing Lent. It’s still novel to me. It’s still novel to my church. In fact, I spend a lot of time and effort each Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday in Lent reminding myself and my congregation of why this is a valid and valuable season in the Church Year, and why it is worthy of our attention and observance.

I’ve come to understand Lent as an opportunity to journey into the wilderness in practice mode, to simulate hitting rock bottom in a controlled environment. We have the opportunity to journey into this season in community. We confess and repent. We pray. We meditate. We practice silence. We empty ourselves of some of the stuff that may not be worthy to fill our lives in the first place.

We find God in the wilderness.

And if we can see God’s love and redemption and grace at work in the “practice mode” wilderness of Lent, we might have a better opportunity to see God in the real-world wilderness that begins not in a predictable way on Ash Wednesday, but in an unpredictable way in a doctor’s consultation room, in a funeral home chapel, in a lawyer’s office, or at the bottom of a bottle.

I choose to journey into the wilderness of Lent so that I might be better prepared when the wilderness comes against my will.


-Josh Hunt is pastor of Ross Grove Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., and is keeping up his blogging resolution deep into February.

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Reader Comments (1)

Yes, Josh, "wilderness practice" is a helpful way of experiencing Lent for me, too, this year. A training ground, a practice run when I voluntarily "rein in" or "hold back" (Peterson, The Message, Romans 8, comparing present hard times w/coming good times), so that when life circumstances require it, I will stand a better chance of responding faithfully. The rhythm of hard times/good times seems to be as regular as a drum beat in my life. This Lenten season I'm trying to focus attention on what is being irrepressibly formed in me as I embrace the discipline of living small, in "joyful anticipation" of celebrating the anniversary of large living that will burst forth April 8.

Feb 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Honeycutt

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