Friday, April 22, 2011

“Give Way:" A Reflection on Lent

From the second level of a double-decker bus on the way from London’s Heathrow Airport to visit my friend in Oxford, I noticed the British yield sign as we entered a rotary. “Give way,” it ordered. Another reminder to adopt a Lent-appropriate posture, I thought.

This time of year you may hear a lot, “Oh, no thank you. I gave chocolate up for Lent.” But what does Lent mean? Lent (or “spring”) spans the forty days preceding Easter Sunday, and provides observers the opportunity to fast, to clear the clutter and distractions out of our heart to make room for Christ.

A particularly awe-inspiring discovery for me this year in my continuing education on the Church calendar was the Feast of the Annunciation (celebrated March 25th, during Lent) which commemorates the day the angel announced to Mary that she would bear God. Growing up in a Protestant church I learned a gentle reticence towards Mary, clicking my tongue at those who erected statues of her, deeming their reverence admirable but their devotion idolatrous, frankly. I continue to believe Mary is not to be worshiped; but I’m coming to believe that in Protestants’ zealous avoidance of idolatry, we’ve estranged one of our most important role models.

Upon receiving the world’s most important announcement, Mary replies, “may it be done to me according to thy word.” Both her physical and spiritual anatomy have made space for Christ, God incarnate. She gives way to God’s will.

As I look ahead to the next three months of living in Romania, I am inspired by the example of my friend Jess who just finished a school year in Oxford. In the three days I got to spend with her there, it was obvious that Jess strove in every way – from the way she approached clerks at the store register to the way she crossed the street and from the way she planned her day to the way used/discontinued use of idiomatic expressions – to yield, to give way to the culture that surrounded her. And I’m under the impression that the more she bended and compromised in order to accommodate what was foreign, the more she grew in understanding of “the other” and of herself.

God grant me the courage and humility to give way… To approach Romania wide-eyed, adaptable and awe-inspire-able as a child. If You will it, what begins as a Lenten discipline during a study-abroad term can become a way of life for life.


  1. Oh Joanna,

    I'm sitting on my couch and thinking, I can just picture you saying that. Yes, Mary making space in her spiritual self, her physical self... Yes, bending and compromising to become ourselves, clearing away ourselves so that Christ may reign more fully. How beautiful.

  2. Jo- thank you for these reflections. As always, they challenge and inspire.