As we left the theater, I was giddy.
It was over a year ago, and Tracie and I had just enjoyed a date night to see the second film in The Hunger Games series. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it follows a young woman who is forced to fight other young people in a series of “games” set in a not-too-distant dystopian future.
I love good stories, and I love it when they’re told well. I had read the books, and I was very excited to watch the films. The second film ends abruptly and tragically. The protagonist has lost a friend, and she finds herself homeless, lost, confused, broken. But I was thrilled by it, because I know how the story ends. Sure, I’d have to hold on for another year to watch the third of four films. I can wait, I told myself. The story is worth the wait, and they are telling the story well. I can wait to enjoy the ending.
We are in the middle of a season of 40 days—46 days, if you add in the Sundays—between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Lent, as it’s called, has been around since roughly the fourth century. It is 40 days long because that’s the length of time Jesus spent fasting in the desert. (By the way, Sundays are excluded from the count because Sundays are traditionally a day to feast on the Lord’s Supper. Nothing should interrupt this most important worship practice.)
During Lent we aren’t singing any “hallelujah” songs. We aren’t singing the phrase “praise the LORD.” Why? Because we’re playing out the entire story. We’re not skipping to the end. It’s no good celebrating Jesus’ victory over sin and death unless we also count the cost of that victory: hunger, testing, pain, suffering. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus to resist the temptation of bread after fasting 40 days? We have to take some time to consider that, to remember how great Jesus’ love is for us.
We aren’t singing any “hallelujah” songs because we are first plumbing the depths. We must realize our need for Jesus. It’s hard to do that sometimes in a world that says, “You deserve it: do whatever you’d like.” “You don’t need anyone else: you can do it yourself.” But those things aren’t quite true. We are broken, lost, confused. We need rescue, and the more we do it our way, the more things get messed up.
We aren’t singing any “hallelujah” songs because we need to press pause sometimes in life. We need to wait. We can’t skip to the end of this story. We need to let it play out. And when we do, the “hallelujahs” we sing when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection will be all the more joyful.
So let’s wait. The story is worth the wait, and we have a chance to live the story well. We can wait to enjoy the ending.