Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
This week marks the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period of fasting and prayer observed by many Christians around the globe. For many traditional Christian denominations, it is considered one of the most important times of the year designed to commemorate Jesus 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. The mathematicians among us will quickly notice that is more than 40 days. The secret is Sundays do not count in the calculation!
For those of us who define our Christian experience as less or even non-traditional, it has become our tradition to just fast forward into Easter bunny mode bypassing the Lenten season as an archaic religious exercise. Let all those Catholics and Lutherans suffer we privately muse.
Understandably, depending on your religious upbringing, the idea of God’s blessing secured only though your abandonment of candy and cookies can seem a bit absurd. For many of us the degree of emphasis put on outward observance with no inner transformation is an all too familiar characteristic of a formal religious system without power. To observe Lent brings us back to the bad old days.
But, I’m thinking today, that maybe it would be helpful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. On second glance we may see how beautiful that baby is. The principal and value of pulling away from worldly distractions and hitting the refresh button on our devotion to Jesus, sounds hardly harmful. In fact, in light of what is happening in our world right now, it sounds great to me. I’m all in. Call it what you want, Lent, the Jesus Fast, or my 40 Day Detox, whatever you choose, but let’s embrace the spirit of this set season.
But Kathy, you may respond, all this “giving up something” sounds so religious. My response is to say that its not about giving up, as much as it is about Going UP! Temporarily becoming untethered from our favorite foods or use of our time, always lifts us higher into a new enjoyment of the Father’s love and presence. This perspective helps. No rules, no bondage, not religiously-led, rather Spirit-Led. Not punishment, reward. Many times, that temporary event turns into permanent, especially if it is an addiction or habit we have been anxious to break. I remember, my Catholic Father in his 40’s giving up cigarettes for Lent one year, and ultimately to his surprise(and ours) he never smoked again.
When it comes to the whole subject of fasting, I was blessed to be taught by a spiritual father who emphasized the concept of living a “fasted life”. Set observances are not always necessary. Gleaned from the Apostle Paul’s own reflections found in I Corinthians 9, to “keep your body under” brings great spiritual reward. His reasoning is that similar to how an athlete trains, self-control in regards to our body should be a lifestyle. In essence, you are always fasting. Our born-again spirit man gains the ascendancy! His advice, “never give your body all it wants.” I love the freedom in that. When something your body is doing or eating is getting the best of you, Holy Spirit is faithful to point it out so you do not become spiritually dull.
Over the past few months I have heard several prophetic leaders reveal that we would experience this great season of war and conflict leading up to Passover. Well, here we are and they were right. The way we would triumph through it, they add, would be to ASCEND to experience our position in Christ in heavenly places. That to me translates into intentional meditation and praying from a place of who God is in me and I am in him. Forming my prayers for his world from his perspective and revelation. It shifts my focus.
We are in this world, but not of it. The trauma of what we are seeing unfold on our tv screens, if not counterbalanced with the realities of the Kingdom of God will breed passivity and grief. The world now needs us to be the strong spiritual army that releases his will on earth as it is in heaven for the nations, not bogged down in despair. Strength will come as we wait on him for 40 days as it did for Jesus. Full of power and the Spirit.
Let’s lean into Lent this year. We can all do it together! I know each one of you reading this already knows the thing you can let go of that will bring you higher. Show your body, the Holy Ghost is in charge of your house, not food, sports or Netflix. God will not love you any less if you don’t, but I guarantee you will be changed if you do!