The Lenten Level


My father grew up in the small town of Joplin in Southwestern Missouri.  His parents were descendants of transplanted Pennsylvania Dutch who believed in self-sufficiency and hard work.  When something was broken and needed to be fixed in the house, they didn’t hire a handyman; they fixed it themselves.  So my father learned to use tools and be a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, etc.  When he got married and had his own household, he became the foreman and he needed an apprentice.  Unfortunately, my father had no sons, so I, the eldest, became his assistant.  My duties were centered around gathering the proper tools and supplies, being an extra set of hands, and trying to preemptively know what my father would need for any given task.  I learned from a very early age, as young as five, to know the difference between a Phillips head and a regular screwdriver, how to size up sockets, and how to change out drill bits.  But no task was ever finished, whether it be hanging a picture or building a bookcase, without the final test.  Just when everything looked to be done, my father would call for the ultimate judge of success: the level.  He was collector of levels, had all shapes, sizes, and materials.  As I handed him the appropriate level, I would wait with baited breath to discover whether we had accomplished our goal, or if we would be setting about to do whatever needed to be done to get the bubble in the middle of the level.

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Just as my father relied upon his level to gauge success, Lent is an opportunity to pause and inspect our life over the course of the past year to see how we’re doing as disciples of Christ.  Lent can be, in itself, a spiritual tool.  Like a level, we have two opposite poles: on one side we have how much the presence of sin in our lives necessitates Good Friday, the day in which our savior died for our sins to bring about our salvation, and the other side is how much our lives are testimony to the glory of Easter, that we live so that our words and deeds celebrate that Christ rose from the dead.  There will be years when our bubble is toward the Good Friday end, when we had a bad period and it permeated the whole year.  It will never be the case that we do not need to remember Good Friday, but as we grow our faith into maturity, we hope to move more to a life lived in hope and joy for Easter.  To see a time when we stop our flagrant sinning and become more Christ-like. 

Unlike the first disciples, we have the luxury of time.  We have 40 days to be introspective, to inspect ourselves and our lives with the lens of Christ.  Those disciples had no time; just as they finished their last supper with Jesus, in less than 24 hours, Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, tried, tortured, crucified and dead.  We can squander our time this Lent, or we can put it to good use.  Let us look at ourselves, see where there is room for improvement, and act to get that bubble where it should be: well on the the way to a glorious Easter!


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