The season of lent is upon us and Roman Catholics choose to begin it with the outward sign of a smudge of ashes placed on the forehead in the sign of the cross. Many make a symbolic sacrifice of something for the forty days and look forward to Resurrection Sunday when they can once again enjoy the thing sacrificed. Some choose to observe a new direction in that instead of giving up something, they choose instead to deepen their faith by adding something like: committing to read God's word, joining a bible study group, volunteering at a homeless or battered women's shelter-the possibilities are endless. The season can be so much more meaningful when we look at it as a small journey that mirrors the journey of life.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24: "Do you not know that those running in the race all run, but only one receives the prize? So, run that you may obtain." We all begin the journey together and some sprint for the finish line, but few can keep that pace for long. Some pace themselves alternately sprinting and slowing so as to endure over the long haul. Some begin to run, but quickly grow tired and slow their pace to a walk or even a crawl. Some never run at all and finish neither well nor strong. At some point of God's choosing we cross the finish line and as Paul admonishes: the prize goes to those who have run to obtain. The journey becomes even more interesting with stumbling blocks.
We all stumble in our journey because of our humanity. Stumbling blocks can be outright sins of adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, murder, selfish greed or theft. We can also stumble over chemical dependence, depression, misrepresentation, haughty pride, ridicule or scorn. What if our stumbling block is something that is totally acceptable to mankind like tradition? The pharisees all stumbled over that, refusing to see the Messiah in their midst because Yeshua did away with the trappings of tradition and ushered in direct communication with God. What if the stumbling block is the form of religion, writings or teachings designed to mislead? These kinds of stumbling blocks can also take a person out of the race, but there is only one stone that we should stumble over and that is the head of the corner Christ Jesus. As it is written in Matthew: "He who falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whosoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." He is the only block worth stumbling over.
If you find yourself stumbling over the lenten season mindlessly following the familiar patterns and carrying on with life as usual. If the lenten season is simply the time to "get through" until Resurrection Sunday and has lost all its meaning. Resolve to stumble over Christ and be broken, so that He can fill you, heal you and go before you. Then you can renew your journey and know that life is not futile, stumbles are not fatal and the death of this earthen vessel is not final.