I've never observed Lent before. Sure, I've thought about it, considered it, made movement towards it, but never actually done it.
I've often felt unsatisfied with the Easter season. As though my observance of it was lacking in something. Surely there can be no greater celebration for us then thanking Christ for His sacrifice and rejoicing in the salvation He offers us. And yet for some reason, the fullness of Easter never quite hits me in the way I want it to.
This year I wanted more. More of God. A deeper closeness. A deeper intentionality to the Easter season. So I decided I would finally observe the Lenten fast.
The season of Lent is one of waiting. One of anticipation. One of longing. In the season of Lent we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying. While not a chronological event with the celebration of Easter, we partake in that fast with Him, remembering His time of waiting on His Father and enduring temptation, and preparing to observe the solemn remembrances of Good Friday and the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday.
The fast of Lent is observed during the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Forty days of fasting has special Biblical significance regarding spiritual preparation. When Moses waited on Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, he stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40y nights, without eating any food or drinking any water (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). And most significantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4:2).
What is Lent about for us? Is it a begrudging tasking, something we do because we feel we should? Or is it an act of joyful surrender? When we partake in the Lenten fast, we give back to God something that is dear to us, something that is painful to be without. And in the moments of its absence, we turn our faces not to physical, carnal comforts but to the comfort of God. In the moment of its absence we turn our faces not to sustenance of our own provision, but the sustenance of the Lord.
We observe the Lenten fast, not as an act of penance but as an act of surrender. Standing in the light of Christ's grace and victory on the Cross, we willingly lay our earthly comforts at His feet as a gift, acknowledging Him as far greater, of far more worth, of far greater glory than any earthly thing we could seek.
And in the midst of our Lenten fast, let us not forget the true fasting the Lord requires. The season of Lent is a time of personal spiritual refocusing in preparation for the Easter season. But let us not forget, while the fast of Lent is an intimate time in our relationship with Christ, it is not the ultimate fasting the Lord calls us to.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house, when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you,?the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, andspeaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
In this season of Lent, the season of fasting, let us long for more of the Lord, not only for ourselves but for the world around us: a world broken and desperately in need of Jesus. This Lent, what if our fasting were not limited to the giving up of a physical comfort but also included reaching out to those around us? Inviting them in, mess and all?
What if we reached out to those who may not reciprocate our hospitality, but instead simply opened the doors of our home – gave shelter to a friend in need, shared our food with a struggling Christian brother or sister, gave some of our clothing to someone struggling to make ends meet? I'm not talking about giving a quick gift card or some cash, I'm talking about giving something of your own – something that means something. A piece of your home.
This season of Lent, may our inward reflection lead to outward action. May our reflection on the sacrifice of Christ lead us to sacrifice for the ones He loves. May we devote ourselves to the true fast the Lord chooses.
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