These forty days of the Lenten season provide a time for us to take a spiritual inventory. Businesses that deal in sales regularly track their inventory and eventually will have “Inventory Sales” to clear out the old models in order to make room for the new models. It is a good time to purchase a car, furniture, or appliance, as the sale reduces the asking price in order to move the merchandise. The motto is “Clear out the old to welcome the new.” Lent is a season of self examination, a time to take spiritual inventory. This is a time of reflection, repentance, and realignment. For some it is a period of self-denial, recognizing the sufferings of Christ by surrendering something that we find important to us. In a sense, we clear out the old to make way for the new. Those things we have had for a while take up space in our lives, use time away from what is important, and demand our attention. Usually they are not productive for developing our spiritual life and are the things we need to clear out. This time of inventory reveals that we may harbor some deep feelings or attachments that stand in the way of the newness that Christ can bring. It may be bitterness over some hurt or offense to us. For some reason, it is appealing to us to hold on to the bitterness, to savor it. We feel wronged and we want what we taste to be passed on to the one who offended us. It may be greed, that we feel insecure if we give, because we may not have enough for ourselves. We fear not having enough, or we are so enamored with our present comfort level we don’t want to surrender it so others may have needs met. It may be worry that prevents us from stepping forward and trusting God will supply what we need. Maybe selfishness prevents relationships from developing along lines of mutual benefits. Wouldn’t it be great to clear out of our lives all that hinders us from wholly loving God, understanding that God has not withheld anything from us? God wants to bring newness into our lives, but we have to make room for Him to work in us. We cannot split our loyalties. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength means that only God and his goodness can reside in our hearts. The rest has to go.
Forty days has significance for events in the scripture. When Noah was on the ark, the rains lasted for forty days. The cessation of rain brought a whole new world. Moses went up the mountain in the presence of God for forty days, not once, but twice. He descended with tablets of stone in which were carved the law and commandments. As God commanded, Moses sent spies to search the land. Their search lasted forty days. When the people heard the majority report of the spies, they cowered in fear and unbelief. Because of their unbelief, God said they would spend forty years in the wilderness, a year for each day the spies explored the land. For forty days, the Philistine giant Goliath taunted the Israelites, morning and evening, until a young David used his sling and stone to kill the evil one. Elijah, in fear, spent forty days traveling to Mount Horeb, where there he found God, not in the wind, earthquake, and fire, but in the still small voice. Forty days, Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. I believe the time spent there fortified him for his life journey that would eventually lead to the cross. While the fasting may have weakened his body, his faith was strong enough to rebuke the temptations of Satan. God can do great things in forty days, if we begin taking inventory, letting go of what may stand in the way of God working in us, and embracing God and his purpose in this season of Lent. In this season of preparation, may we hear Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3:9-10, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” The imagery is that of changing clothes, taking off the old and putting on the new. Later in 3:12 Paul says to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Afterwards, he states that over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. May we strive this season of Lent to make this journey of preparation a truly meaningful one by heeding the scripture, and seeing what God can do in us in these forty days.
Andy Wade is pastor at First Christian Church of Logan and member of the Logan Ministerial Association.