I did not grow up observing Lent. My knowledge of what was intended in this spiritual practice was limited. All I knew is that some of the Catholics around me spent the 40 days abstaining from something that they enjoyed. As an outsider, someone without Christian faith or understanding, this solemn Lenten practice made religion very unappealing. If following Jesus means doing things like giving up dessert, I wanted no part. The religious practice of Lent, while respectable, was not an entry-point to faith for me, probably because I didn’t know just how much practice I needed.
But as God wooed me with His love and I matured into deeper understanding and admiration for the path of Christ, I began to feel the weight of what the sacrifice of Jesus means. Knowing that Jesus spent 40 days in a desert fasting and facing the one-on-one temptation of the devil (before the ultimate fulfillment of His mission at Easter) is downright inspirational! Jesus was pretty badass, right?! (umm..can I use that word in a devotional?) Religion helps us practice now because we know life requires our readiness. Storms are going to come. Darkness exists.
Truth is, the more trials I face in life, the more I need to look to the badass role-model-life of Jesus. I need to keep practicing with Him.
The Lenten season is a reminder that Jesus didn’t just overcome death (at Easter) He overcame life first! He faced the trials of living in our broken world, and overcame with His fierce will and the bold Word of God.
The more I experience deserts in my life: seasons of waiting, seasons of abstaining, or seasons of dutiful commitment to a broader mission; the more I look forward to the desserts. I thirst and hunger for what awaits. Because of these solemn seasons, I know I will get to experience amplified joy when I arrive at the other side of my hope. The more intimate we’ve come with the darkness of our human condition, the more marvelous the celebratory event of the coming Easter.
Are you thirsty?
Are you hungry?
Do you groan for something more?
The orthodox tradition calls Lent a season of bright sadness. Hope is hard, but it is essential for putting the bright in our sadness. Hope is affixed to the brightness at the conclusion of the Lenten season. There are grave realities to our life, yes, and bitter details in Christ’s story too; but because of hope, an amplified joy awaits and the end of this brutal season. The sweetest dessert will be yours.
Hang on. Christ came. He did it; and it was all for you! He did it to show you the way. And miraculously, His Spirit stays Earthside now to dwell with you in the deserts. He puts the fierce in your will and is your ever-present hope-giver; offering bright hope to get you through life’s Lenten seasons.