“Lent is a time of returning to God. It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace, and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us without really finding what we desire. Only God can give us what we want. So we must be reconciled with God … The season of Lent, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.” –Henri Nouwen
The Lenten season in particular invites us to be more intentional about returning to God on every level of our being through practices of self-examination and repentance. Then, as we renounce those aspects of the self that keep us from abandoning ourselves to God more fully, we are called into the sacred rhythm of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will remain a single seed. But if it dies, it will produce many grains of wheat. For whoever will find his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will find it. If anyone would serve me, they must follow me. They must follow me in death.” John 12:24. To see Jesus is to see the importance of dying in order to live.
Could it be that the key to life is death? Could it be that the key to living is dying?
What happens to a seed when it is planted, that is when it dies? Inside every seed is an embryo and in that embryo is a root which goes down into the ground, and a shoot that goes up into the sky. Every embryo has a root and a shoot. When you plant a seed in the ground, the seed takes in water and expands to the point that the seed coat is broken and begins to mature and grow producing more shoots and the shoots produce more seeds which produce more fruit. It is in dying that we begin living. It is only by first dying that we will every begin living.
A familiar prayer for peace says “it is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born again.”
The Apostle Paul knew this law well when he said: “We will not be united with Christ in a resurrection like his, unless we are first united with Christ in a death like his.” It is only when we are united with Christ in a death like his, that we are united with him in a resurrection like his.
In the Bible, Jesus talks about dying to self. It means dying to selfishness. It means dying to “the big I,” the old me, the attitude that I am going to live for me, the purpose of my life is my self-fulfillment and me experiencing all that life can give me. Life is preoccupied with me and my happiness; I am preoccupied with myself, my successes, my failures, and what other people are thinking about me; that I am the center of the universe. That’s what an infant believes; that the infant is actually the center of the universe and everything revolves around the infant’s needs. And many people grow up but remain infants; still believing that they are the center of their universe. They never grow up but experience infantile paralysis; being paralyzed by their self-centeredness. But when life revolves around me, I am not really living at all. When that childish self-centeredness finally begins to die, finally I begin to live.
It is only in dying that a person begins to live. It is only when we are united with Christ in a death like his, that we are united with him in a resurrection like his.
Jesus said, “Unless a seed dies, it remains only one seed; but if it dies, it produces many seeds and seedlings of little love which then grow into great love.”
There is a better way of living, and God is inviting each one of us during this season of Lent to die to our old ways, and enter into a new life centered on Christ. Our salvation depends on whether or not we place our complete trust in Christ and accept His invitation.