With the ‘spring forward’ time change now in effect, the light lingers into the evening. And, appropriately, the season of Lent comes at this time when the hours of daytime are “lengthening” as spring approaches. The word lent is from the Old English word lencten. Lencten means “spring.” Literally, it means the lengthening of days as the sun’s light lingers in the sky.
We may imagine this time as a space when we can ‘lengthen’ spiritually, when we can stretch out and grow in the Spirit. In fact, the image of a plant is my Lenten focus this year. What can we cultivate that encourages our spiritual growth, and, conversely, what can we cut or prune away that is an obstacle to our growth? And so, many people give up or take on something during Lent as a way to focus intentions on growing towards God.
However, we should not place too much emphasis on our own efforts, which can be a real temptation in Lent with so much focus on what we can do. As a church member reminded me recently, many times it is God who does the pruning because if it were up to us, we would rather not be subjected to letting go or giving up. In the same way, it is God who grows and cultivates our trust and faith. Just as the sun was thought to do the work of ‘lengthening’ the days during early Springtime, so it is the sun – in the sense of God’s warmth and light – that does this work in our ‘lengthening’ and growing in Christ.
I love this quote from N. Tanner: “We have a beautiful play on the words ‘sun’ and ‘son’, which are pronounced identically. Just as the sun was seen to do the work of ‘lengthening’ the days in spring, so it is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who does the work of ‘lengthening’ in our spiritual growth. This image provides a comfort for us in our busy modern world, where hyperactivity and achievement can become the norm. Our role during Lent is to cooperate with God’s grace and initiatives, in a sense to relax in the presence of God, rather than to force the pace with our own efforts.”
In this Lenten season of lengthening, let your spirit stretch and surrender into God’s light and love.
May God’s peace be yours,