“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  [Hebrews 12:1-2]

One temptation I’ve noticed over the years is for us to assume that we are, by ourselves alone, responsible for all the content and the results of any pre-determined spiritual discipline we take on during the Lenten Season.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  If we can successfully give up chocolate or coffee or sodas or meat or alcohol or whatever it is we have promised God we would avoid, or on the other hand, if we can successfully read a chapter of the Bible a day or pray for ten minutes every morning or promise to be in church sometime before Easter…if we do or don’t do these things as we have planned them out, then, “Praise God!  We have had a successful Lent!  (Now pass the pork, please…)”

The danger of a “successful Lent” is that it tends to grow our egos.  Maybe, rather than a successful Lent, we should pray for a “faith-filled Lent,” one that grows our humility.  The passage from Hebrews 12 reminds us that Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  We do not begin this journey alone and we cannot continue it by ourselves, either.  A great cloud of witnesses surrounds us – saints who have been there, done that on the same path where we find ourselves.  Sometimes they stumbled (like us).  Sometimes they fell flat on their faces (like us).  Know, though, that their prayers and testimonies are recorded to encourage you and me to persevere.

Trials and difficulties are a part of life, and they will surely show up over this Lenten Season.  Consider the fact that all of them were either permitted or even designed by Christ (read on in Hebrews 12 through to verse14) – to help us develop the righteousness that allows us to resemble our Savior.  Forty days is about as long as we allow ourselves to invest in anything these days.  Lent is intentionally not short, so don’t lose heart.  Proceed faithfully, being strengthened and healed along the way by sisters and brothers who are on the very same path, running (or walking) toward the grace of transformation we long for on Easter Sunday.  Pace yourselves.  It will be worth it.  Especially if we travel together.