Feb 16, 2021Lenten Math: Going back is the quickest way forward

Lenten Math: Going back is the quickest way forward

Kim Snodgrass One-minute read.   Resources
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

In math, we go back and re-work a sum we’ve got wrong. Lent offers us the chance to go back and re-work our faith with God. That is much of what Lent is about, putting the sum of our life right with God. C.S. Lewis sums it up (pun intended) well in Mere Christianity,

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

Sometimes we get stalled, believing Lent is a once-a-year shot towards a closer relationship with God; if it (whatever it is) doesn’t happen in Lent, it probably won’t. Nope, progress is progress. Somethings take longer to learn than others. In geometry, while working to come up with a solution the chances are high that I’ll experience a temporary setback (a mistake or two) along the way. This only means I took a wrong turn along the way, need to press reset, and begin anew. In both life and mathematics the sum I’m looking for — being in relationship with God — involves recognizing and acknowledging where I’ve gone off track (prayer, study, self-awareness, mindfulness), adjusting my course (thoughts, actions), and moving forward towards a solution.

God knows all our mistakes, all our excuses, all our secrets.

While we’re adjusting our Lenten mindset, isn’t it comforting to know God knows all our mistakes, all our excuses, all our secrets. Thank Goodness we cannot hide because it is exhausting to try. How refreshing it is to hear the words –

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden…

Collect for Purity

We cannot reveal anything to God that God does not already know. During Lent, we become venerable. But we can approach the One who knows everything there is to know about us, in whose image we are wonderfully made, and who loves us unconditionally, with relief. To return that love in our thoughts, mind, body, and soul is what Lent is all about.

Kim Snodgrass is Assistant to the Bishop for Christian Formation.

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