Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and Lent 2017 will begin. The next 40 days until Easter is the time to prepare mind, body, and soul for the resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To commemorate this season and ready ourselves for this holy celebration, folks use sacrificing, acts of kindness, and additional time dedicated to prayer. In the past I too have actively taken part in some way that would require sacrificing, but also sought to produce a better version of myself. If I was to give up junk food, I would learn to be a healthier person because I would use my faith as the inspiration to not binge eat. Or being sure to carve out better quiet time that would include prayer, but also time with my calendar so I could find a way to focus on what matters (aka I wanted to be more organized, so I looked at Lent as motivation to stop slacking off). Most of my Lenten efforts were inspired by the desire to sacrifice, but rooted in the ways I felt I should be a better person. Lent I focused on me.
Lent is 40 days because Jesus spent 40 days in the desert – fasting and praying – before he would carry out the plan to save the human population. We all know the story – Jesus was out in the desert for those many days: hungry, tired, and tempted by the devil. But have you ever really stopped to think about the humanity of our Lord on display in this moment? Not only is Jesus tempeted by his hunger, or fearful of his fate – Jesus is actually seeking God’s guidance and rescue from his circumstances. Those 40 days weren’t spent just a little uncomfortable counting the minutes until it was done – those 40 days Jesus was in anguish. He knew very clearly the path that laid before him, but his human nature left him scared, and feeling abandoned by God. In fact he thought that maybe if he went to the desert, prayed, proved his dedication to his father, God would change the plan. The dreaded feelings of uncertainty, the inability to control how any of this would play out, and worst of all the feeling of complete despair because no one understands how you feel – this should be the most relatable moment in all of the Bible.
Have we not all wondered what the heck we are supposed to do next? Have we not wanted to look to the heaven’s above and say – “where are you?” Or “really, that is what you want me to do?” It took Jesus going out into a land with no other people, no earthly distractions (including food and water), and one serious battle with temptation (and not just a food craving…. but a battle against the prince of evil) for 40 whole days to find the place to quiet himself, lay out his fears, and connect with the Lord. And when he was done, he agreed the path God had designed was his path and he would walk it. When Jesus would return and have to say goodbye to his family and friends, he had the strength to not only do so but to give them comfort and courage too. Then as one of his own, that he loved, betrayed him, he did not give into the pride to fight back – but continued forward. When his mother looked at him with confusion and pain because of choosing the Lord’s fate, he had to just hope she would come to understand and keep walking with him. And when Jesus had to give of his wholeself, the most anyone can give – their life – through death as if he were a criminal, he did not defend himself, he did not change the course of history, he said I trust and he died. God gave Jesus what he needed to survive how his life unfolded and then he used that commitment to produce a miracle of raising Jesus from the dead. A miracle that made Jesus life have a meaninig that can only be achieved by the power of God and with an example that inspired and trans formed the lives of billions.
This Lent I am planning to actually join Jesus in the desert. My whole Lenten focus is going to be on spending time with God so he can direct my heart. During the past three months I know I have only survived by becoming so vulnerable to my faith. I often found myself just sitting in his presence and staring. I would say to him how full and fearful my heart was, and that I could not even find the words to describe it- so instead I would just be with him. My creator, my father, my Lord made my heart – he knows what is in it. And when I was this lost, it was those moments that I gave it all up to him for guidance that guess what? He protected me….. he has guided me…. in fact there are moments that played out in such an unpredictable way, yet that was exactly the solution we needed – I would never have known to pray for it! So learning to just tell my Lord what is on my heart and give it to him for guidance and repair was paramount for this part of the journey – and now I know for all walks of life.
Case in point….. today when listening to a podcast, the idea of work life balance came up. And one of the women said how this is a myth. Life is a serious of choices – something will get your time, focus, energy and something won’t, period. Balance will never be achieved, so rather we just have to learn how to best spend our time – sometimes work needs more, sometimes family needs more- and we are to make the best decision we can, knowing some part of our life will have to go on without us. So I know I have to choose how I spend my time, energy, focus, but wouldn’t it be better if I had God direct me on the parts of my life that should be the focus. After 40 days Jesus got his answer and I am guessing I can too.
As you prepare for Lent if you are looking for a few helpful resources, here are my favorites:
Jesus Calling – A favorite of my prayer books for a daily devotional.
Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever Program – This one is very simple and a GREAT 2-3 minute a day Lenten lesson.
Journal – I have taken to journaling to God and it has been just the tool I needed to be open, honest, and to free myself from carrying around feelings of confusion and pain.
Jamie Ivey Podcast – there are a lot of folks with powerful stories in this series that I highly recommend.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!