Lent is the season spanning from Ash Wednesday until Resurrection Sunday, or somewhere in Holy Week for some denominations. The focus of Lent is to prepare for the celebration for the beautiful celebration of the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the World. In order to get a more in-depth sense of the gift that was given, the magnificent gift of Holy Week and power of our Savior, many believers focus on the mourning of sin and our constant nature to veer from our God in search of other things that gratify the flesh.
That was a mouthful, right? Fancy wording that is common in the Christian world but many times is nothing more than a bunch of gibberish to some that are not accustomed to this lingo. Lent is a time to focus on evil....sin. It is in all of us. And, many take this time to really focus on what our hearts would be like apart from a loving God who has redeemed. Lent looks different for different believers who worship in different ways and even hold different beliefs. On Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, some believers actually wear ashes on there foreheads as a symbol of mourning as was done in Old Testament days, before Christ. During this season, Christians commonly focus more intently on prayer in an effort to draw closer to God. Some fast from certain foods and drinks, and a lot of people sacrifice certain other things that they can identify within themselves, personally, as taking their focus away from the Lord.
Jesus went into the wilderness or the desert, depending on what version of the Bible you are using. They mean the same here. He fasted for 40 days, completely relying on the Holy Spirit to lead Him. Staying close to His Father in heaven, when He was approached by Satan with three different temptations, He never fell. He used scripture each time to defeat the attempts of the devil to derail His mission. In likeness of our Savior, this is why we choose to fast. We want to join in the sufferings of the Lord. This is merely one way.
My particular experience this year has brought some surprising revelations. Last year I participated in a sort of guide during Lent, where those who were following it sacrificed different things throughout the season. Some of the things that we"fasted" from were certain food such a meat and sweets. We also fasted from social media, certain music and television. Sunday was set aside each week a fest days, where we could indulge. Taking part in last year's fast prepared me for a more intimate fast this year. I became aware of some things that I really longed for when I fasted from them.
This year I gave up refined sugar, but allow myself natural sweeteners such as fruit, honey and 100% maple syrup. I also gave up social media, Facebook and Instagram. I am still on the blog, which is my outlet. Going in to this fast, I knew I liked sweets and found myself scrolling through social media frequently; a little too often for my liking and I was always left with a gross feeling coming away. So, twenty-one days in my feelings are many! I now have a much better awareness of my desire for sugar and when I desire it. I never knew I was a stress eater, but clearly I am. I have found myself craving sugar when I experience times of anxiety. Instead of praying first, I reach for something sweet. That sweet taste usually made me feel better, thus the urgency to pray dissipated. Instant gratification at its best, and my prayer life was suffering. I have been met with a number of challenging events, one most stressful is my dad's recent health concerns. Many of you know that my dad has Parkinson's disease. We are feeling the effects of this disease more and more as we witness his decline. My sister and I have had to make decisions that are hard ones and tensions are rising. We have dealt with numerous sicknesses, most recently the stomach virus that struck 7 kids total, 5 consecutively within 15 minutes of one another. These things added to having recently having a baby and not getting a full night's sleep and busy schedules drawing us in different directions. I have had a hard time with the sugar fast. being perfectly honest, I messed up my coffee. Those that know me know I love coffee. I feel like it is a saving grace for me. A functional necessity. Initially I tried to drink coffee without sweetener and no matter what I did, it always tasted like dirt water. I have tried honey in the past and it did not work. I have been leaning on my 100% maple syrup (not Mrs. Butterworth's) to get me through. I do not want artificial sweeteners. I just feel, FOR ME, that would be cheating the whole fast and they are not healthy. I have not missed social media, but I had to be careful not to get legalistic about it. Last year I deactivated my Facebook account so that it would not tempt me to click my app. This year my account has stayed open and I have gotten onto my account for messenger, to check times and addresses for events that I was attending, but no scrolling, no picture looking, no gross feelings. Facebook, FOR ME, is so very toxic. It is a place where bullying is overlooked and disguised as advocating for a cause. A platform for the party, the trend, the belief, the movement that we individually think is best. It is an apartment of division. It is a place where we only put our best face, best dressed kid, funniest joke, perfect everything, leaving some to think they are alone in this mess called life. Or, on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, we dish every single bit of dirt in our lives. Each extreme is for the almighty comment to their post. Everyone wants to know who and how many really notice them, all while the One who does notice them and loves them beyond compare, really goes unnoticed.
I have had more time with my kids, more time to read, and not quiet as much time as I had liked to blog. I still have 37 unfinished drafts to complete. I am still not very good with balance. I am either too busy blogging to enjoy life or too busy living like to blog about it. I have a few personal posts that I have been working on for some time, but they are too hard to spend significant time on them. As God works of my heart through this season, and believe me, HE IS, I feel confident I will get to a place where completing them happens. In a recent conversation with my dear friend Ebony, and she asked the question "Why does God use the classroom of pain to teach us?" My reply was to sear the lesson into our memory. I tend to remember the painful lessons the most. In her wisdom she has shown me that He also uses pain to draw us to Him. He wants us in fellowship with Him, not just some times. He wants us all the time. He wants us to want Him all the time. And, if I can be candid, hopefully without judgment (because I loathe judgment, for those of you who want something personal), I do not always want time with the Lord, or fellowship with the Lord. I want the blessings, I want the healing, I want the revelation, the wisdom, the discernment. I want what He can bring. I do not want to be this way, but I fall into the trap of instant gratification. And, my pride can grow enormously before I know that is has happened and I am humbled on my knees. What a good God that keeps pursuing me and drawing me back to Him. And, while I am still in the midst of mourning and self examination, and God continues to reveal what is truly there, I have hope.....Sunday's coming!