On Sunday night our team was sitting around eating dinner, and we began discussing what our schedules looked like for the week. Amidst the normality’s of the week, the discussion of our church’s Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) and Ash Wednesday events came up. Seamlessly we began talking about what we had all given up, sacrificed, or taken on in past Lents, and the question emerged, “what are we each doing for Lent this year?”
One year ago, I remember sitting at my computer making the decision to stop playing all Facebook games because they were taking up to much of my time. I would find myself sitting on my days off, still in my pajamas until 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon playing these games. Instead I choose to spend that time reading, reflecting, and spending more time with God. I also made the decision to begin blogging daily my thoughts that developed from this time. As I sit here today on Ash Wednesday, my world then seems a far off reality to my life now.
Lent is a time to grow, reflect, and sacrifice in a way that brings you to a realization of your shortcomings and need to draw closer to God. The call to fasting comes from the need to recognize our own brokenness and humble ourselves before God, the one who provides us with the ultimate forgiveness. But God has called us to more than bending a knee and recognizing our own sins, he has called us to a fast that removes us from our comfort zones, pushes us to see the injustice that is abound, and beckons us into a life of love for all.
In Isaiah 58 the people of Israel cry out to God in frustration and in desperation, yearning for him to see and notice their eagerness for his presence. They proclaim,
“Why have we fasted….and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?” (verse 3)
Looking upon his people, God simply answers Israel’s cry by stating that these actions have become merely actions. The meaning and purpose behind the call to fast has been lost and it has become purely an obligation that must be met. And what strikes me most is how relevant that is for us today. How many of us choose to fast from something during Lent and treat it more like a New Year’s resolution or do so because our Christian culture says we should.
What we’re missing is God’s call for more. He proceeds to call out to Israel,
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice
And untie the cords of the yoke,
To set the oppressed free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
When you see the naked, to clothe them,
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (verse 6,7)
God calls to Israel as he calls out to us, the desire to see us fast in a way the removes anger and bitterness, breaks down oppression, and draws us to a life of love. Only then, when we move past our brokenness and closer to the life he has called us to will we truly know his presence. For,
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (verse 9)
So this Lenten season, I challenge you to look deep within and find the walls that you have built that keep you from the unending love of God. To fast from the areas of life that keep you apart from his amazing grace. And to move forward knowing the life God has called you to live.