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I woke up this morning to the reminder that we are halfway through Lent, a church season known for fasting, reflection, and a slower pace. But one thing often missed about Lent is that there is balance: with each Sunday comes a feast day–a day to relish in the thing you’ve been fasting from. A day to remember the other side of Lent: the redemption, the hope, the quickness of spirit found in resurrection.
Fasting for freedom
I stumbled into a fast for Lent this year, giving up the need to “make things happen,” which is to say: giving up my control, my force, my expectations of what I *should* do. It was a surprising find, especially after committing to writing an e-book, with deadlines and everything. But it has been freeing in itself: I write down ideas for blogs or posts, without rushing to open an app to force out all my words at once. I post less frequently, but with more heart and soul. And I approach my writing deadlines with an easy grace, writing less to check a box, and more to just write the words I need to write in those moments.
I think that’s the real point of fasting: freedom. I grew up with a divided view of fasting. On one side: fasting to get something, and to inch yourself closer to God by giving up the things that distract you from him. On the other: fasting to feel in control, specifically of my cravings and eating habits. Neither of these are healthy views. Combine them with an underactive thyroid that sometimes throws my metabolism into overdrive and leads to shakiness–and I swore off fasting for awhile. for years.
When I came back to this spiritual discipline, I came back to it in non-traditional ways. Like fasting from isolation a few years ago. And fasting from control this year. I found freedom from those old views, and walk with less rigidity in this season. It’s not merely a wilderness season anymore; it’s the wilderness being transformed into a door of hope. It’s an invitation to lean in, to grow, to walk closely to Jesus because of who he is (not because of what I do), as preparation for the next season.
Feasting for hope
Finding this freedom in fasting has been heart-changing for me, but I think feasting this year–even if I’m really just discovering it halfway through–is also an invitation to hope for that other side, that next season ahead of us. I think feasting is easier to understand for more traditional fasts, like feasting on a great slice of cake when fasting from sugar. Maybe that’s why it has taken me awhile to get to this point in my non-traditional fast. Because I obviously don’t want to “feast” by being controlling, rigidly following a to-do list, making things happen all day.
I stumbled upon this idea while journaling this morning:
It feels weird that we're at this halfway point; March is already flying by, and I feel like I've lost most of it to work and stress and overwhelm. But it is not lost to you, God. It is not lost nor wasted. Because these things that I feel I've lost time to, really, encapsulate Lent, right? Reminding us that Jesus not only felt these things, too, but that he also carried them--and their distractions to lesser loes and the distance from God they create--to the cross for us. All the way through life and death, and on the other side: redemption. peace. reconciliation. There's another side. What a comfort that is.
I feast to find that other side.
I feast by taking time this morning to write an unplanned blog post, to write it straight on the blog with little editing, and to open my heart up to the idea that God wants to make things happen for me.
What a revolutionary, and yet simple idea: that on the other side of my control, my expectations, my self-sabotaging fuel to make things happen in my work, my writing, and my life is a God who wants to make things happen for me.
This doesn’t feel like a discovery you’d make in the wilderness, but that’s the beauty of Hosea 2’s reframe of Lent for me:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,Hosea 2.14-15, ESV
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
Lent isn’t only about wilderness, about fasting or giving up, or feeling the weight of our sin; it’s also about the other side. About the door of hope that is made of our troublesome valleys. About the tender ways in which God speaks to us and leads us forward.
What’s on the other side of Lent for you?
My challenge to you to mark this halfway point of Lent today, on this feast day, is to look to the other side of Lent.
What door of hope is being created within you?
What tender words are you hearing from God?
What’s on the other side?
If you want or need a place to share these words, feel free to comment below or email me here.