As we prepare to enter into the season of Lent, there is always a call to fasting. That is one of the definitive features of this time of Lent. It is a time to pull back from all the abundance of our life, particularly for those of us in the West, and to refocus ourselves upon God, on our great need for him, and on the mercy that he provides over and over again.
We see this call with the Ash Wednesday Service Liturgy within the United Methodist Church:
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
I’ve always had a little bit of an awkward relationship with Lent. On one hand, I know that it’s necessary. I know that we must repent of our sins, turn from them, refocus and shift our lives towards God. We need this.
But for me, one of my key verses is Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” We repent because of the kindness of Christ.
So Lent can leave me feeling a little uneasy. We need to focus on sin. We need to focus on fasting and discipline. We need to focus on our great need for God.
But we also need to remember that as much as we search for God, God is calling out for us. We are loved. We are valued. We are of sacred worth.
We fast to refocus. But refocus on what?
Not our human frailty.
Not our human loss.
Not our human weakness.
We focus on the goodness of God.
The grace of God.
The love of God that does not beat us down or break us apart.
The love of God that does not make us feel inadequate or unworthy. No, that’s not the love of God.
The love of God reminds us that we are made in his image. We are called by his name. We are him.
The love of God builds up.
We fast to clear away the noise and the pain and the hurt. We fast to tune our hearts to his grace. We fast, even in the midst of our pain and brokenness, not to be torn down.
No, we fast to be built up. To be reminded of what matters and where life is found. We fast so that our ears can properly hear that voice of God, calling out to us.
In this season of Lent, no matter where you find yourself, may we all commit to a holy Lent. May we fast. May we pray. And may we hear the voice of our God calling us back, once again, to the healing power of his love.
May this be for us all a holy Lent.