Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness … He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into God’s hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.
It’s the beginning of Lent, the forty days of preparation for Good Friday and Easter. As you probably already know, it remembers Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness at the start of his ministry, fasting and praying. So every year, Christians enter a kind of spiritual wilderness for forty days. Often people give something up, a kind of fasting from a usual comfort or habit. The Eastern Orthodox church adopts a vegan diet for these forty days – no animal products at all – and doesn’t eat the first meal of the day until after 3:00 pm. (I’m not doing that. Just sayin’)
Why do we do this? Because it’s so easy for us to forget God exists, in the press of our lives. Fasting helps us to remember, each time we miss whatever we’ve given up, that God exists. It reminds us to turn to a prayer, if only a quick “I know you’re here, God, thanks” kind of prayer.
Over time – over forty days – those prayers add up, bit by bit. They open our spirits to be shaped by God’s love and call. We arrive at Good Friday as different people than we started on Ash Wednesday, as people a bit more available to God, a bit more aware of the beauty and pain around us, a bit more accepting that we are beloved, a bit more willing to step up to the task of loving everyone who comes into our lives.
Blessings upon your Lenten journey, my friends.