It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Do you wonder about this expression? Most often it’s used to signify weather patterns. Have you ever noticed how the lion/lamb phenomenon seems to parallel our spirits as well? Looking more deeply, I find changes that accompany warmer temperatures often coincide with changes in our minds, hearts, and attitudes. We survive through a usually bleak, gray, cold February. Forgotten is the excitement we once felt as the first snowflake drifted to the ground or as we prepared for holiday gatherings, hot cocoa, winter sports, and snuggling under a warm blanket. By the end of February, our hearts long for renewal. And March is often our transition.
Add Lent, which usually begins in February, into the mix. Ugh. The whole notion of giving something up. Giving up? Who are they kidding? Don’t I “give up” every day? When will it be my turn to “get?”
Right? Have you ever felt this way? I am not sure I know many people who look forward to obligated fasting and guilt-based, self-imposed sacrifice.
However, Lent is not about “me.” Nor is it solely about the object I choose to give up. What I elect to forgo is not meant as deprivation; it’s goal is self-discipline. The idea is to get a taste of what it’s like to give for the sake of someone else. A small insight into what Jesus did for each and every one of us. He certainly gave the ultimate gift – His life as ransom for our own. We may also consider how new Lenten trends include not merely giving up our favorite drink or dessert, but of doing more – doing something extra. Perhaps adding prayer time or an additional mass to our weekly routine, visiting a nursing home, or spending a day helping a friend despite our plans to finally catch up on our own overdue chores. Perhaps it’s something internal like being more patient, giving up gossip, or avoiding quick and harsh judgement of others. These actions are not for the sake of suffering, as much as they are for the sake of bettering ourselves, our relationships, and our connection to God. These actions help us grow.
And with growth in mind, we return to the notion of transition. March indeed comes in like a lion and out like a lamb in more ways than just the weather. It does so in the spirit within our hearts, the trust in our faith, the joy inside our souls, the depth of our breath. Like birth itself, transition to new life can be cataclysmic. Even being reborn out of winter can sometimes feel like coming out of a hardship or loss…We pray for spring, for sunshine, for energy, for growth… we pray for a resurrection.
Let’s revisit for a moment the lion and the lamb. The lion typically represents qualities of strength, confidence, and leadership. Attributes of a lamb often include innocence, gentleness, purity, and sacrifice. Both have biblical references; both at times symbolically representing Christ. We easily identify with Jesus as both king and sacrifice, strong and gentle. Therefore, we may ponder the paradox. Is it possible to be both mighty and weak, or to be a gentle yet powerful leader? Of course. For example, I can think of several venues where I feel confident along with others where I feel inexperienced and timid. We are well aware of Jesus as a gentle teacher and at the same time, a strong, faithful leader. We feel His brotherhood and deep desire to love us. Yet we also recognize His expectation that we love our brothers and sisters just as reverently. We understand both God’s might and mercy.
Many human elements exist despite, and many times in, the tension between these two sets of characteristics. I believe this tension is the catalyst for transition; and in these transitions we discover what would ordinarily pass us by unnoticed.
Would we appreciate love if we never missed it? Would we perceive kindness if we’d never experienced struggle? Would we recognize the warmth of the sun if we never felt the cold? Would we know the meaning of sacrifice if we’d never witnessed fortune? Hmmm... Transition. Perhaps the changing weather patterns are good, healthy companion for the changing seasons within our being.
As we muddle through the darkest days, coldest, even the most empty days, possibly with a taste of sadness or desperation, we cannot help it: we long for hope. We consider the new life that comes with spring, and contemplate how appropriately timed is the season of Lent. We start with deprivation and ashes, only to be born anew with resurrected hope and hyacinth!
I reflect upon how fully I experience this again and again. When lucky, each time leads me to a closer relationship with God, a fresh insight, a renewed wisdom, and the means to carry on better and brighter than before.
The transition from winter to spring offers me optimism and anticipation. The paradox of two seemingly opposite symbols teaches me valuable life lessons:
When thinking about what we’re doing for Lent, let us look for action that will lead us closer to God. As humans we find many distractions that pull us away from Him. All He desires is for us to love: to love Him, ourselves, and others. Lent is a good time to reassess our values. As we move toward longer hours of daylight and warmer temperatures, it is a perfect opportunity to find an activity that brings us closer to truth and light. As we move out of the gray, cold skies, we may focus less on our dependencies or ambitions, and focus more on doing things that make us feel good about human essence. We use the life, the talents, skills, and even struggles we’ve been given, to make a difference in our family, community, country, or world.
Ask yourselves these questions:
Am I focused on my own suffering or my own success so much that I don’t notice what is most important?
Am I interested in deepening my relationship with my family members or friends?
Do I bring God into my daily routine? Do I recognize when He’s watching over me, and when He’s challenging me to grow?
For further reading, consider these references:
One of the finest symbolic representations of Christ as a lion [which I have come across] is in Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis’ portrayal of Aslan is simple and profound – yet another tension of seemingly opposite meanings that when come together produce exquisite corollaries. I’ve recently reread two of the stories, and each time cried at the beautiful portrayal of love, sacrifice, courage, brotherhood, and mentorship. If you enjoy a bit of fairytale woven with Christian undertones, I highly recommend several in the series.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.