Getting lost isn’t great! That feeling of panic, spiralling into despair, and then the desperate search for somebody to blame… getting lost isn’t great.
So much so that we go to great lengths to ensure we know where we are. We will play it safe, we will keep to the accustomed paths, we will rarely travel alone… and now with the required GPS system, there will always be a reassuring word of direction spoken in the preferred and designated voice – as long as there is a signal!
The season of Lent, however, is the season all about getting lost. The 40 days of Lent coincide with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. 40 days of getting lost. Jesus wandered the desert regions with no definitive destination – no landmarks of note to walk towards, no roadways to travel by, just sand and random stone.
Following the highs of the baptism experience in the Jordan, with the descending dove and the voice from heaven, the Spirit of God sends Jesus into the desert…to get lost. And when lost… there is a profound sense of alienation and disorientation. Our defences are down, we’re vulnerable, helplessness embodies our state of mind – getting lost isn’t great.
And yet, doesn’t our faith encourage in us the sensation of helplessness. Isn’t it when I’m feeling at my lowest I can then look for help, I then raise my eyes heavenward and ask for assistance. Isn’t it when I’m undefended that truth has opportunity to drop into my consciousness. For when I’m sure about everything, when I know the way… I have no need to ask – everything is sorted.
But when I’m lost… I will ask whoever is at hand… I will even try a road I’ve not travelled before. I wonder if you’ve ever chosen to get lost. With an hour to spare – have you ever decided that this would be a good time to take a wrong turn – on purpose? This sounds crazy… and yet it could be one of the most dramatic spiritual practices you could ever do! Immediately you will have new horizons to deal with, and instead of knowing what’s just around the corner, you now won’t have a clue.
One of the greatest faultlines in modern society is the need to know everything. This mindset, instilled in most of us from a very young age, more than anything limits our capacity to grow into the people we are made to be. This mindset ensures we are suspicious of anything outside what we have learned to be acceptable. Not only are we suspicious we go as far as to reject and ridicule. Why is it I change so little as an adult? Perhaps it is this refusal to get lost. I have to know, and I have to know everything. That way I can be independent, stand on my own two feet, and not need another single soul.
In the season of Lent we learn that this mindset stunts our capacity to grow – we remain infantile in our preoccupation with what is known and tested. And so the season of Lent invites us to let go of smaller things so bigger things can happen in our lives. This letting go is the equivalent of getting lost. It’s a risk. ‘Will we find our way’ is often our question.
The discipline of giving something up for Lent is a discipline to remind us that ‘getting lost’ is no bad thing. The discipline of losing something shapes our mindset and thinking into a more vulnerable and broader landscape. It fosters an openness to possibilities and a willingness to tread the unknown path.
This is the necessary road for each individual follower of Jesus, and its the only road left for the institutional church we love and cherish.