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Ash Wednesday
First Posted by Robert Certain on Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018

    Into the Abyss … of Lent

    Within seconds after my aircraft had been crippled by a surface-to-air missile, I looked at the Bombardier. Our eyes met, and we both started preparing for ejection. I threw my flight case as far to the rear of the cockpit as I could, cleared my table, tossing pens, dividers, and charts to the back, stowed my table, pulled down my visor, cinched up the oxygen mask, activated the flow of oxygen, kicked back into the leg restraints, and grabbed the ejection handle between my knees, and pulled. I thought the seat had failed. The panels in front of me seemed to move up exceptionally slowly. Was this thing jammed on the rails? I’ll be beaten to death by the wind! It was an illusion brought on by the state of shock induced by the extreme danger of being in a burning and likely to explode bomber directly over the enemy capital. Everything from the first call from the copilot to ejection had appeared in extreme slow motion, like a movie depiction of an automobile crash. In actuality, it was probably about 10 seconds.

    The next thing I knew, I was in the cold air of the troposphere. Now what do I do? OK, God, it’s you and me. The next fifteen minutes seemed like a lifetime as I descended through the night and into waiting enemy hands on the ground. And for the last forty-five years I have returned to those minutes for signs of God’s hand at work in my life and in the lives of others. From the darkness of that abyss I have gleaned these truths that seem particularly appropriate for the season of Lent: 

    • The darkest night makes even the most “ordinary” dawn gloriously bright
    • Sometimes the only hope for freedom is found in surrender
    • In all matters of life and death, Christ is present
    • The signs of his presence are hidden in the obvious

    For me, the season of Lent, with all its apparent austerity, is a straight road to the glory that is Easter. It is much more than a season to be endured – it is the time of growing expectancy and excitement as we await the known outcome of Easter joy. This is not a season of dark dread. Instead, it is a time to prepare our hearts much like a pregnant couple prepares a nursery, so as to be completely ready on the joyful day of new life.

    This Lent, look for the signs of Christ’s loving presence in the obvious circumstances of your life, surrender to his loving embrace, lose yourself in his adoration, and greet with joy the day of his Resurrection.

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