Going out like The Lamb

Written by Mary Paul
From her column Dwelling with God

Every year my childhood grade school bulletin board would be decorated with colorful drawings of roaring lions and prancing lambs illustrating the American folk proverb declaring that March “comes in like a Lion, but goes out like a lamb.” My focus then was in the promise that spring would soon be here and with it warmer days, school breaks, and outdoor play. While I still look forward to the warmth of spring, my journey through March is now deeply connected to our shared passage through the Lenten season with the hope, of course, that at the high point of Easter we may indeed come out like The Lamb.

This year we may all be feeling more like a roaring lion who has been caged, poked at, and overall frustrated. In the midst of all else that is happening in us and around us, we are still finding our way through a world pandemic that began in Lent 2020. I remember a friend who was walking through a devastating loss as she approached Lent saying: “I have enough Lent right now I don’t think I need to add anymore.” I can appreciate her sentiment but I like to think of the invitation into this time of year as an opportunity to actually become lighter not heavier. The observance of Lent provides an opportunity to let go of some things we have been practicing or carrying that do not make way for the freedom Christ offers all disciples.

In “Running on Empty,” Fil Anderson shares a conversation where he talks to one who is stressing over his life with God.[1]  I resonated with his agitated friend. When I take the time to review the state of my heart and my commitment to spiritual practices, there is always space for improvement—longer more disciplined prayer, fasting in meaningful and regular ways, extending truer generosity, striving after the Kingdom with more of my heart, mind and body. However, Anderson encourages his friend to rest in God’s desire for an intimate relationship and hear the deeper, truer invitation which is for us to simply come and be with God, and then go living and breathing into our homes and communities as a result of that encounter with our gracious God.

Maybe I can take myself less seriously and live with more abandon, coming to God like a child running to the waves on a beach.

What if I could let God be in charge of such intimacy and know that my initial task is simply to show up? Perhaps my personal agitation would decrease if I take the steps to be vulnerable and honest, letting others know of my deep yearnings, disappointments, and doubts. Maybe I can take myself less seriously and live with more abandon, coming to God like a child running to the waves on a beach. Fil Anderson said, “I’d be wise to learn from the angels who, I am told, can fly, not because they have wings, but because they have clearly seen God and thus take themselves lightly.”[2]

Lent is a time set apart for us to quiet the competing voices and listen deeply to God’s life-giving invitation to live as beloved citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. This Kingdom citizenship is marked by a people who “confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). This confession of faith, if said with the depth and breadth it demands, is a bigger, more formative statement about your future and mine than any other allegiance that might arise among or between us. “Jesus is Lord” is both a prayer to God and an assuring promise I am receiving from God.

The word in Greek (kurios) is often translated "lord." A lord is one who demands and deserves loyalty, allegiance, and worship. This, obviously, raises a potentially piercing question for each of us to ask ourselves: “What is demanding my first loyalty, my allegiance and therefore my worship?” If my neighbor (next door or online) was asked to describe me and my passions, would they name the Fruits of the Spirit and my devotion to God?

When I hear or say the words “Jesus Christ is Lord,” I breathe deep in the midst of all the chaos that marks these days. I pray my devotion to Him will grow deeper and wider and that the effect this has on my life will be evident to my neighbors.

This Lent is the perfect time for us all to be transformed from lions into beings that more closely resemble The Lamb.

Rev. Mary Rearick Paul, D.Min., is vice president of spiritual development at Point Loma Nazarene University.

[1] Anderson, Fil Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2004
[2] Ibid, 190