One of the purposes of Lent is to connect ourselves with God’s people and their (our) story. The first time 40 days is mentioned in God’s story is in the Noah story. Remember, the human race had become so wicked that ‘the Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled’ (Genesis 6:5-7). God decides to send a flood to judge the sinfulness of his creation and to wipe the slate clean.
Genesis 7:12 says, ‘Rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights.’ I find myself in Noah’s story: I am reminded of my how great my own wickedness is and how the inclinations of my heart tend towards evil (Genesis 6:5). It reminds me of the words from Ash Wednesday: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’ I share this with all humanity through all history – this is our common story. Connecting to this story calls me to repentance; Lent offers me the opportunity to repent.
It also offers me the opportunity to connect with and receive God’s grace. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be shut in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights while the rain pounded down. Yet, in the midst of all this ‘God remembered Noah and all the wild animals.’ God didn’t forget. God established his covenant with Noah. God didn’t give up on his purpose for his creation.
Lent can seem a bit dark. Confronting our sinfulness can seem scary. But connecting to the story of God and his people reminds me that God is gracious – at the end of the flood, God promises, ‘never again.’ (Genesis 8:21). Instead, he ends up taking the punishment for my sin on himself: he becomes sin so that I might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). This reminds me of the other words heard on Ash Wednesday: ‘Repent and believe the Gospel.’
What’s preventing you from entering into the invitation of Lent? What are you afraid of? Repent and believe the Good News! God has not given up. God is still making all things new.