As I have had conversations in following up or correcting the things I’ve written I have been assured at just about every turn that we are growing and changing and we are OK with that. Growth and change are parts of why Episcopalians “do Lent,” important parts.
The lengthening of Lent is described by a symbolic frame, 40 days. It is kin to the 40 days and nights of rain that renewed the world for God and Noah’s family, the 40 years of wilderness education that formed a nation, the 40 days of Jesus’ formation before his first sermon. There are other biblical 40 day periods that we mostly miss. Here’s a quick list:
- Isaac’s Egyptian burial took 40 days of embalming (Gen. 50:3)
- Moses is on the mountain for 40 days (Ex. 24:18, 34:28, De. 9:9, 9:11, 9:25, 10:10)
- Joshua and Caleb spy on the land of Canaan for 40 days (Nu. 13.25 and 14:34)
- 40 day-long Philistine attack of Jesse’s stand begins the ascendency of David (1Sa. 17:16)
- Elijah’s 40 day strength plan helps redirect his ministry (1 Kings 19:8)
- Ezekial’s 40 day preparation for his siege of Jerusalem (Ez. 4:6)
- Finally, the 40 days of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (Ac. 1:3)
For sure there are purification practices caught in several of these 40 day periods. More than one looks like a weight loss plan. But every one of these 40’s helps change to happen. Simply, there is a difference between who or what goes in and who or what comes out.
When Thomas Kuhn first wrote about paradigm shifts in 1962 his examples were less intentional than these biblical periods. More like the way an epiphany leaves you changed. Once you’ve seen the duck you can’t just see the rabbit or vice versa.
But these biblical examples all point to intention, purposefulness, shriving and even more so toward God’s purposefulness. So I’m thinking AND I’m feeling a change. It is both an intentional product and a happy by-product. Little of it is the result of my efforts but I’m sensing that most of my shifting is the result of God’s efforts using my shriving, my praying, my imagination to take me to a place where I have never been. My heart and my head are moving and I can’t wait to come out on the other side of this forty days.