This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of Lent for many churches. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is a somber day in which one is reminded that “you come from dust and to dust you will return” or, more to the point, “Remember, you will die.”
Lent is a season that allows us to journey alongside Jesus towards the cross. This is to be a time of fasting and reflection - reflecting on what our lives would look like without the Resurrection - about the work that was done on the Cross. It is a sobering time that leads us, forty days later, into Holy Week and, ultimately, to the Resurrection.
My family and I observe this season every year. Sometimes half-heartedly, but most years we are very much in a place of needing to hear something - a place where we need to remember. We found ourselves in a place of need this past Wednesday.
Over the past several weeks during the evening hours, in those rare few minutes that the adults in our house have to talk about things of consequence (I.E. anything that does not revolve around Disney Princesses, Palace Pets, or whatever other marketing scheme my children have latched onto that week), our conversation has centered around a feeling of discontentment, unsettledness, uneasiness - specifically concerning the spiritual growth in our lives.
We feel unmet, unheard, lonely, unsatisfied, hungry, thirsty, and, in all honesty, a little angry.
In the past, these feelings would send me into a bit of a tailspin. I would try to make it better, force the issue, or blame someone else for simply not meeting my needs. However, an incredible therapist told me several years ago that anger is actually a God-given emotion. It’s purpose it to let us know that something is off, unfair, not right.
And so rather than giving into feelings of “others are letting me down” and just being angry, I have been sitting in the unsettled feelings. I allowed the soil of my soul (that has admittedly sat stagnant for a bit) to be tilled, turned over, and uprooted. It’s not pleasant, but it is freeing.
When we allow ourselves to be reminded of our flaws, our deep-seated imperfections, our sin, our death - we let all of that into the light. It’s unearthed and aired out. We can look at it plainly - inspecting what’s been uprooted. We can look to heaven and ask that some things in our life be pulled up and thrown into the fire.
The season of Lent, aside from being a time of reflection, it is a time of fasting. Many fast rich foods or wine. Some fast behaviors or earthly joys. Some get caught up in the restriction and the “emptying out” and forget that fasting for fasting sake is simply an exercise in self-discipline and self-discipline is not all we are called to. It is not all that Lent should be. Instead, Lent is a time of giving something up with the sole purpose of allowing that new found space in our day to be employed in an activity that is LIFE giving - praise, worship, the Word, serving. A time of re-centering.
Lent as an experiment in self-depravation is not the point.
God does not want us empty. He wants us full. He wants us overflowing.
This Lenten season, I have personally chosen to take a step back from some social media - although I will be sharing links to my CC blog posts. The reason being that it is time consuming. I will even go so far as to say it is LIFE consuming. It can leave me mumbling, judging, irritated, and mad. Which is not an indictment of social media, but more on the condition of my heart.
When I am Bored. Lonely. Desperate. Joyful. Confused. I go to the internet. I go online. There is where I will seek answers, comfort, friendship, confirmation, encouragement...Love.
I have found in my times of reflection in preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent that I am incredibly unsettled because I am abiding in the wrong places. I am not ABIDING in God.
A few definitions of “abide” are:
- (v. i.) To stay; to continue in a place; to have one's abode; to dwell; to sojourn; -- with before a person, and commonly with at or in before a place.
- (v. i.) To wait; to pause; to delay.
- (v. i.) To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.
- (v. t.) To wait for; to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; as, I abide my time.
- (v. t.) To endure; to sustain; to submit to.
- (v. t.) To bear patiently; to tolerate; to put up with.
- (v. t.) To stand the consequences of; to answer for; to suffer for.
Jesus says in John 15:4 that we are to “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Now, read that verse again, replacing “abide” with the above definitions.
“Prepare for me, as I prepare for you.” “Dwell in me as I in you.”
The Bible instructs us, encourages us, to abide in God. My tendency toward social media as a default simply does not allow me to fully participate in the Lenten journey alongside Jesus to the cross.
So, I am fasting the seeking out of others online. And I’m going to try and fill that space with life-giving water, daily bread - to spend my time abiding in the Word. I want to fill that time up with God. I want to be overflowing with Him, not with tweets, likes, and pins.
I believe my unsatisfied, unsettled, and freshly tilled heart will find comfort and peace there.
Perhaps you find yourself some place similar.
Perhaps there are emotions, sins, attitudes that seem to be blocking out everything else.
Perhaps this is the time to allow the soil to be tilled - to learn to abide.
Written by Lydia Wells
**Christ Community does not corporately celebrate Ash Wednesday or Lent, but many of those in our body do participate in this liturgical season. Visit this link to read a blog written by Pastor Matt addressing this time of year.**