The Lenten Practice of Waiting

We are in the Lenten season. We so often think of Lent as a time to ‘give something up’. People will swear off all kinds of things for Lent: sugar, social media, alcohol, bread, or T.V. The practice of fasting is wonderful and can bring one closer to God in an amazing way.  In the case of Lent however, I wonder if it has overshadowed a larger theme of the season: the theme of expectant waiting.


When it is boiled down to its core, Lent is a season of preparing our hearts for Holy week. It is about orienting our minds to reflect and celebrate the death and resurrection of our savior Jesus. It is geared toward looking forward to the cross.


I often think about the ‘first lent’. No, I’m not talking about the first official Lent after 325ce. I’m referring to the actual 40 days before Jesus died. What must that time have been like for Jesus. Everyday mentally counting down the days until torture and death. Tracing down this timeline is hard because of the nature of the gospels but we do get glimpses into this time—Jesus’ actions at the last supper and Jesus’ mental state in the garden of Gethsemane are two prime examples of this time.


Recently, I started a new tradition. For the past few years, I have kicked off the Lenten season by watching the Movie Lake Mungo. This is a film that revolves around a family investigating the possibility that their recently deceased daughter (Alice) is haunting them. (spoilers ahead!) Part way through the movie, the family find Alice’s old cell phone. The phone provides evidence that Alice had a vision of her death a year prior to it happening. From that point forward, the movie is less about a family dealing with the grief of loss and more about Alice wrestling with the reality of her own impending death. In some of the most heart wrenching scenes ever committed to film, we see 16-year-old Alice go through just about every emotion possible in the lead up to her death. This movie is genuinely a powerful example of the idea of expectant waiting and what it looks like.


Having something looming in our future that we are nervous about, are afraid of, or are downright dreading is a scary prospect. It is something we have all done. Done many, many times I would hazard to guess. Sometimes when we get to the actual event, we find it was not as bad as we expected, and the worst part was our nerves leading up to it. Other times just the opposite is true. It was just as bad as we expected if not worse. But that time of expected waiting always remains. That time of mental, spiritual, and emotional wresting is when our true feelings are made clear and laid bare to God and ourselves.


My annual rewatching of Lake Mungo acts as a reminder of what Lent is supposed to be. Lent is a time every year when we reflect on what it means to wait. Wait for God. Wait for news. Wait for something to happen. Lent should force us to examine ourselves and how our faith and relationship with God has changed over the past year. Alice had next to no relationship with God, so she sot answers in just about everything else. Jesus is the Son of God, so he threw himself at the feet and mercy of God with everything that was within him.


This Lenten season, I challenge you to examine yourself and what the idea of ‘waiting’ looks like for you. Especially in seasons of turmoil or hardship, how do you wait in those times? How does God enter the equation for you in those moments? Uncertainty is scary, waiting is scary. But Lent is a yearly reminder that we do not wait alone. We wait with the one who died for us. We wait with the one who himself waited—waited for the sins of all humanity to come crashing on his shoulders. Let that God wait with you. Open yourself up to that level of love and strength. Happy Lent!