Lent will be over in less than two weeks. This 40-day period of reflection and repentance in preparation for Easter is one that we will not soon forget. I read recently that the number 40 is mentioned 150 times in scripture. I haven’t counted them all to verify, but you have to admit, there are a lot of references to 40.
Quite often the number 40, whether it is days or years, refers to a period of testing, trial, and judgment. At the end of that period, the person or nation was radically transformed in some way as a result.
Jessie Cruickshank is an author and educator who formerly was the director of a wilderness ministry school whose courses lasted up to 40 days in the backcountry. She has trained many people how to respond in challenging circumstances. She suggests a crisis like the one we face now will have four phases:
Building (1-14 days). Your focus is on building teams and finding solutions to logistical issues. It is your first wave of innovation and where you have the most control.
Breaking (14 – 21/28 days). In this phase, which we are in now, we are learning what we can’t control. Emotional, mental, and spiritual fatigue starts to set in. This is where we need to be with people.
Baptizing (21/28 - 60 days). The new normal sets in. Trying to maintain plans and rhythms can bring distraction, but fatigue, apathy, even depression can set in here. This is where we get to be creative in how we hold one another, weep with one another, give hope and joy to one another, and pray with one another in a way that does not violate laws or guidelines in place. This is the place where there are few answers, just presence.
Budding (60+ days). A second wave of innovation comes, as new ideas arise and deep change happens. New things are birthed. This is where the church can experience transformation.
During her time as an expedition leader, Cruickshank found that everyone breaks by day 30. Everyone comes to the end of themselves in a month. That is why God did so many things in 40 days, she says. It allows for breaking and re-forming.
The results of this breaking and reforming process can be amazing and beautiful. “The Kingdom is revealed like a light on a hill,” she says. “People are never the same on the other side of times like this because while parts of them are experiencing death, other parts are coming alive. LIFE is on the other side of this. It truly is a baptism and rebirth.”
Prayer: Father, even as the days become more difficult, we look forward to the ways you may want to break and re-form us. Let us be willing to die to the things you want us to die to, and willing to submit to the ways you want to re-form us, so that your Kingdom can be revealed in us, and we can be a light on a hill. Amen.