The season of lent is a period of fasting for forty days, beginning Ash Wednesday (22 Feb 2023) and ending on the [Holy] Saturday before Easter (9 April 2023). The Christian practice of fasting for forty days comes from Jesus’ display of fasting for forty days, as recorded in the Gospels. (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13) This season is a time of giving up something distracting or hindering your growth in faith and taking up a spiritual practice so that you grow in your faith. Imposing ashes upon your forehead [or hand] is a sign of repentance and a visible remembrance of the fragility of humanity. These forty days of Lent are meant to be tough, as someone may very well feel when hunger strikes, the body reminding us we need food and water to survive as mortal humans. However, we souls need something, or Someone rather, to nourish our hunger and thirst for righteousness in our lives and the world. We receive spiritual food by neglecting our enjoyable vices and practising virtuous disciplines, such as reading Scripture or praying.
By Easter Sunday, we hope to rise to new life given to us by Christ’s Holy Spirit – who raised Him from the grave. Today, Tuesday (21 Feb 2023), we can think and pray about what we need to give up and what we need to take up, and we may be wondering what we can give up and take up. I want to offer you a simple question for reflection on today [and during Lent] and a simple practice you can employ during the forty days.
Begin with the end in mind:
Thinking about, ‘What do I need to give up?’ needs to be asked alongside the question, ‘Where do I want to see growth in my faith in Jesus during this season?’ The Holy Spirit always delivers an answer when I begin reflecting on these questions, so I hope it will help you. By starting with the end [of Lent] in mind, you can picture yourself in a new light as the light of the risen Christ shines his grace on you. Have you neglected a daily discipline of prayer, Scripture reading, or a weekly act of worship at your local congregation? Then imagine yourself praying, reading Scripture daily, or worshipping weekly, and committing to developing habits that will foster such an end. You’ll notice what habits to expel from your life and what habits to practice by thinking this way. This is a straightforward way of journeying through Lent. It sounds simple, but sometimes simplicity is a necessity.
Here’s what I’m asking and doing: I’m asking, ‘What is my heart’s desire?’ I’m reading a verse daily from Psalm 37 alongside my other spiritual disciplines. Why Psalm 37? Simple. In verse four, ‘Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ Reading Psalm 37:4 recalls what Jesus says in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, ‘where your treasure is there your heart will also be.’ (Matt. 6:21, Luke 12:34)
What do you treasure the most right now? What actions/expressions confirm your ‘treasure?’ Do any of your actions communicate to yourself or others that this ‘treasure’ is indeed your ‘treasure?’ Maybe you don’t know what you treasure, and you want to find out. That’s where my heart is today…I’m wondering what I treasure. Psalm 37:4 tells us that by delighting in the Lord, He will give us our heart’s desire. So, for these next forty days, I’m delighting and asking Jesus, ‘What is my heart’s desire?’ I trust that Jesus will answer me, and he will answer you, too.