Lent is one of the harder seasons of the Church year to press into. It’s long and doesn’t have any of the softer edges of Advent. For six-and-a-half weeks, we’re invited to contemplate our sinfulness and Jesus’ atonement. Many of us approach this season asking, how can I practice a holy Lent this year? We know Lent is a journey of preparation that invites us to walk the road of repentance, but we are fragile souls. Are any of us really strong enough to spend time awakening to our deepest hidden sin without being shattered in the process? This kind of self-examination requires both humility and godly self-love. Humility so we don’t respond to what we notice with prideful denial, and godly self-love so we don’t crumble in shame at what we discover.

We make this deep journey inward so we can strip off anything we carry that blocks us from fully experiencing the love of God in Christ Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus won’t be repelled by our sin, even though we might be ashamed by what we discover. Our sin neither surprises nor repels him. Our sin draws us to him—not because he’s attracted to sin, but because he fervently desires our rescue.

Throughout the gospels we read of the religious elite being outraged that Jesus spent time with tax gatherers. These were men who not only collected the high taxes imposed by the ruling Roman government, but also took an additional skimming for themselves. Not only did they do the bidding of the occupying enemy, they charged extra so they might profit from it.

These men were despised by everyone. And yet, Jesus is drawn to them. And they to him.

Embracing repentance to practice a holy Lent

Whatever we uncover on our Lenten journey inward, we need to remember Jesus will still be drawn to us. We are safe in drawing near to him in repentance.

Jesus comes close not to leave us as he finds us. He comes to rescue us, like the lost sheep. Jesus comes to transform us, like Zaccheus. He comes to welcome us into the family, like the prodigal son. And he comes to call us into service in his kingdom, as he did with Matthew, the former tax collector.

Jesus is a friend to us sinners and sees enormous potential in all of us. He comes as the Prince of Peace to bring shalom into our chaotic inner world. His death and resurrection bring us peace with the Father and adoption as his sons and daughters. His atoning work also brings us peace with ourselves. If the despised men and women of Jesus’ day were welcomed at his table, we too are invited into intimate fellowship with him.

The invitation is as expansive as it is personal. From what might he desire to rescue you or to what might he desire to appoint you during this Lenten season? Come to Jesus with all your sin, but don’t expect to remain the same. Come in repentance and you’ll receive rescue and forgiveness. But not only that. You’ll also receive the Father’s blessing and appointing as you are transformed into the image of King Jesus. Knowing we are securely held in our savior’s love, we can safely make repentance the cornerstone of our holy Lenten journey.