The Long Winter, if you recall from The Chronicles of Narnia, stretched out 100 years under the White Witch’s cruelty and vigilance. Though winter, Narnians were unable to celebrate Christmas or barely able to carve out a living with no real hope except for a prophecy that Aslan would soon appear marking the return of Spring and the end of the Age of Winter. The arrival of the four Pevensie children initiated this change—Lengten was on the horizon. Evil would soon come to an end under the reign of new human kings and queens.
It’s no real surprise to see Lewis’ imagery borrowing heavily from the church calendar. Spring (coming from the Old Saxon word lengten (lent)) anticipates new beginnings and possibilities. After a long, harsh winter, we yearn for spring. The snow and ice are beautiful, serving a purpose we enjoy, as long as it’s short-lived, of course. We may be ok with the darkness and death of winter as long as we know spring is coming soon. Even the Psalmist anticipates God as his dinner companion when walking through valleys of shadow and death (Goodness and love are a metonymy for God in Psalm 23:6). So it is with Lent. We see death and brokenness all the while moving toward the hope Easter brings—new life. The only way we can traverse the call of Lent is by anticipating Easter.
So, Lent calls us to reorient our focus solely on Christ, renewing our intimacy with him as an expression of our heart’s deepest longing. The renewal we most deeply need and desire can only transpire in Jesus. However, this renewal may not be what we expected. Changing the metaphor slightly, this whole imagery calls to mind Isaiah’s words in 43:19: “Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (MSG). Our transformation comes in unexpected ways. Lent opens us to the possibility that as we open our eyes to a new beginning (like spring), we may also discover that God is up to something very fresh and different within us altogether.
Can you see it? God is up to something. It may not appear in the form we want to recognize or even embrace, yet, it is here. God is melting winter, carving out a way through dangerous territory in order to sustain life. That’s his way… in us and even through us.
What does renewal look like on you right now? What change do you long for in your heart and mind?