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imagesI have an old, wooden bench. It has been many colors over the years, the latest being a boring, mushroomy beige. Admittedly, the color seemed like a good idea at the time. Colorful pillows perked up its quiet and somewhat dull facade.  Time, complete with sunny summer days and brutal winter snowfalls, had their way with the bench making it appear old, worn out and uninviting. But, it’s a bench and its entire purpose is to be a place for the weary to sit and become refreshed enough to go about the rest of the day and the remainder of their business. To be uninviting is not what it was made to be.

Orange, specifically smoked paprika, resurrected its purpose as an indication that one should come, be still and sit for a while. Orange is welcoming, encouraging, social, enthusiastic, healthy, warm, and just plain happy.

I didn’t know it would take so long to cover that blah, deep mushroomy beige with smoked paprika. Benches can be interesting. This particular piece has wood slats for the seat and back, meaning there are four sides to paint for each slat. Had they been butted end to end, there would only be two. The back of the bench has a carved sunburst-like motif with nooks and cranny’s that almost spit the paint back at me as if mocking any intention I might have to perk up its appearance. Little by little the transformation continued. Stroke on the new color…brown appearing through orange…let it dry…paint another layer. When I retired my paintbrush for the day, I was satisfied that what was once dull and wasted had been restored to new life.

Those hours of painting gave me plenty of time to ponder, meditate and recognize life lessons could be found even in a simple activity like painting a bench.

You see, my bench became beaten down and tired – just as can one feel lost and troubled by the things life has an uncanny ability to throw our way. Maybe it’s an illness, the loss of a job or a relationship gone bad. Or maybe it’s simply the fatigue that creeps up on us from worry, a monotonous routine or our own lack of creativity to change the crappy things we encounter in life forcing us into our own version of that tired, old bench.

And…maybe that’s why Lent is so darn important. Maybe it’s not about chocolate – or the lack thereof – or penance and fasting, self-flagellation or denial. Maybe it’s something so much deeper.

You see, when we follow the story of Lent, we walk through the life and ministry of Jesus as well as with him in his passion and death only to be catapulted into his amazing resurrection and new life. It’s no mistake that this season occurs in the spring when we are surrounded by budding trees; new growth on old shrubs; flowers; the birth of bunnies and chicks; birds nesting and laying eggs; and a warmth that recharges the winter weary soul with energy. New life is everywhere, reminding us that resurrection is real and waiting for us let go of what is tired, old and dull to embrace all that is pleading with us to remember who we are and Whose we are. It’s sanding down the splinters of the past allowing that vibrant orange to seep into our hearts, just as it did into the crevices of that old wooden bench, soothing the rough and jagged pains from the past. New life transforms us back to that which we were so lovingly created to be.

New life…the magnificent culmination of the Lenten story…is real.