A flip of the calendar page finds us not just in a new month, but for the church – a new season! Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a powerful period of the year for me – Lent. You may think it odd, but this is a favorite time of mine; not Christmas; not Easter, but yes Lent.
As a child I remember evening Lenten services, where we memorized “Abide with Me”. At the close of worship, the sanctuary was darkened with only the 20 foot cross in the chancel illuminated and we would sing the words of the final stanza:
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
You see, all of those memories flood back each time a Lenten service begins. I love the solemnity, beautiful music and time of reflection.
International Business Times describes the season as this: “Every year, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. During this time, observers practice fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. This is meant to imitate Jesus Christ’s actions and reflect on his life, death and resurrection.”
I never tire of the liturgy, the hymns (“Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded”, “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted”, “Go to Dark Gethsemane”) or the passion readings. The worship services cause me to pause, meditate on this incredible gift given by our Father and confess that I am baffled by that immense love and certainly not worthy of any of it. So I admit my weak, flawed, imperfect life and throw myself at the feet of my Savior, but fasting (oh yes, the fasting) has not always been a part of my 40-Day journey.
I tried giving up vegetables in my youth (mom was not amused). I attempted giving up coffee or cutting back (truly difficult). I have on occasion done partial fasts and on Good Friday, a total fast. I recall one Lenten season when our pastors challenged us to doing one thing more, rather than giving up a particular food. That year I increased my devotion and prayer time, concentrating on the evening hours.
But this year I pause for a different fast. This season I want to give up old habits. You know those habitual thoughts and feelings that have been so ingrained in my head I seldom realize I’m doing them.
This season I want to do a different fast. I want to replace: the pettiness, the selfish attitude, the put downs, the superiority, the “I gotta do this”, the envy, complaining, the “g.t.t.m.’s” (going through the motions), the criticizing… you get the picture. Honestly that is exhausting and draining. I ask the Lord’s help, because I want more peace and encouragement for others and myself as well, as I dwell on what this passion story is about. Not just a story, but a love story from our Father to us. Where everything was given for me.
I invite you to join as the Spirit leads you and to focus on: Galatians 5:22-25. “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their sinful self. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do. We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit.”
Lord, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.
Blessings on your passion journey. Doneta