Paradox: a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Life in essence is paradoxical. Christianity in particular has many paradoxes. Lent is an example of one such paradox.
Lent is solemn period of repentance and reflection leading to the day of recognition of the death of Christ during which time we acknowledge our own mortality. Megan has shared with us that Ash Wednesday is a difficult day for clergy because it is hard to tell people who they care about that they will die. It is hard enough to think about people that we care about dying, let alone telling them. But death is always more difficult for the community for whom the deceased person was important and loved. As individuals, however, due to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us (the reason we celebrate on Easter) death is something that we need not fear. Despite differing opinions and evolving perceptions of the afterlife, it is probably safe to say that most Christians agree that eternal life with our God and savior will be an improvement over our human existence.
Spiritual author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer states that we humans are beings that are going to die. We all know that we are going to die, but we do not behave as though we know that we are going to die. Accepting our mortality not only reminds us that the clock is ticking in order for us to do something and/or be someone of value (“growing up” as Amy Eagle described) but on the other hand also reminds us that the pain we experience in the earthly realm will not last forever.
So, on the surface the practice of observing lent – and more specifically facing our own mortality – may seem like a depressing exercise that we generally would prefer to avoid (or at least get over with as soon as possible) it actually has a much more positive, redeeming, and even motivating nature when viewed through the prism of paradox.