Originally posted Feb. 23, 2012, at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
A pilgrimage is a long journey, usually a walk, made to some holy place as an act of religious devotion. In Lent, we undertake a spiritual pilgrimage.
Our destination is that place of self-knowledge that Jesus points us toward in the beatitudes: that place where we know that we are — not paragons of righteousness on our own, but sinners dependent on the love and mercy of God; that place where our good works come from deep within us and not from our need to impress others or ourselves with our goodness.
Over the years I have come to believe that the most important work of Lent is, simply stated, to learn humility. Humility is not a “woe-is-me, poor-worm-that-I-am” posture. The word “humble” comes from the same root as the words “human” and “humus” and “humor.” It means “of the earth.”
To humble yourself is nothing more or less than to be who you really are, acknowledging your humanity, your needs, your shortcomings and your gifts. To be humble is to come to know who you are and who God is.
It is to come to the place where you do not confuse the creature with the Creator, the place where you cease to be the center of the universe and recognize yourself as one very much beloved part of God’s good creation. It is to turn from preoccupation with self and toward God and neighbor.
Lent reminds us that the way to righteousness lies through the desert of confronting our unrighteousness! Undertaken in humility, our 40-day pilgrimage could take us to that place where we can be honest about our shortcomings, knowing that our honesty will not run God off but will be the occasion for God’s continuing affirmation of us as beloved children.
Lent is a yearly opportunity to remember who we are. Our Lenten journey could lead us to self-awareness and to God-awareness. It could remind us that we are sinners greatly loved by God.
We will see that love in its most profound form on Good Friday, when we see the Incarnate God strung up and dying on a cross out of love for us.
May God bless us all on our Lenten journey of self-awareness, humility and grace.
Find a link to Julian Gordy’s entry at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.