Lent is like returning home.

Let me explain.

Regardless where they’ve met me, those who know me well know that I am an Arizona boy. Whenever I sojourn away from Arizona for an extended amount of time, coming back is truly like returning home. It’s a return to the low desert, high desert, mountains, and canyons. It is driving roads with memories: where my vehicle(s) broke down (and that was in the days before cell phones), I have sat on the roads in my vehicle waiting on construction, and have seen the plants on the sides of the roads green, I’ve seen them in blossom, and I’ve seen them fade with the passing seasons. Some think of wilderness when they think of Arizona. However, I think of home.


Lent is a return to the wilderness – every year.

Lent helps us to remember that after Jesus was baptized, full of the Holy Spirit, he entered into the Judean wilderness for 40 days and nights where he fasted and prayed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus walked some of that wilderness before. He made the trek between Galilee and Jerusalem before. Maybe he knew some of the landscape well. Perhaps he felt at home there. Possibly, on trips to Jerusalem growing up, he would look at the mountains jutting out of the desert floor the way that I did growing up in Arizona. Maybe he thought, “One of these days I’m going to climb that mountain.”

Maybe. We don’t know for certain.

Of course, no matter how familiar that wilderness may have felt to him, this time it was different – he was about to be launched into his calling and mission. After the declaration from the Father (and manifestation of the Spirit) regarding His belovedness, and before launching into his ministry, he entered the wilderness. In that liminal space we know that He was tested with temptations that were seemingly aimed at His identity, His belovedness, and calling – the wilderness was ground zero for this.


In the worship calendar year, we experience cycles of worship that are aimed at helping us to reorient our hearts and minds around the story of the Gospel. The cycle involves: preparation (anticipation), celebration, and proclamation. At the beginning of the worship calendar year we experience this in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Likewise, we experience this with Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Lent is the preparation of our hearts and minds for the resurrection. Jesus prepared his heart in the wilderness, and similarly, we are invited back into the wilderness – we are invited to follow Him into this ground zero.

Why return to the wilderness? I find something that Frederick Buechner wrote to be helpful:

“In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness, where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.” Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

I find that in a sense, Lent is remembering who I am – asking what it means to be me. As I do this, I once again consider my identity in Christ, I grapple with my Belovedness, and I dust off and re-hear my calling.

What does that look like for you this year?

Traditionally, the Christian tradition of Lent has included fasting. I’ve found this to be a helpful, challenging, and formative discipline in the past, although it can be complex to integrate into our daily schedule in realistic ways that stays true to the purpose. However, I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s helpful to pick up something for Lent. For instance, if you decide that you are going to make a habit of journaling every day, that means that you’ll be saying “no” to something else that would otherwise occupy your time.

My encouragement to you?

Do something. Anything. There are many spiritual practices (disciplines) that help us, but here are some practical ideas that might help.

Engage a prayer app.

A couple of apps that I recommend are:
Lectio 365
A Simple Pause
Set notifications to remind you to use them every day.

Read a daily devotional.

Two that I recommend are:
Jesus in the Wild by Dan Wilt (my worship community is doing this one this year)
Trusting God in the Wilderness by Ted Wueste

Walk regularly.

If weather permits, I recommend getting outdoors. Walk or hike a trail, visit a park or arboretum. Pray and get your body moving. I have a hiking playlist that I use to reflectively hike. Songs that reconnect me back to my story turn my hikes into truly meaningful experiences, while getting me into nature to help me get out of the Matrix of concrete and asphalt. It is grounding.

In conclusion, here is a Lenten prayer from Henri Nouwen:

“Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.”