March 7, 2012 // Uncategorized

Our spiritual journey to the empty tomb


Now that the Lenten season is in full swing, and we have entered fully into the 40-day desert journey, I feel I’ve gotten a deeper sense of where I’m headed with my commitment to connecting with God through daily prayer. Each year during this penitential season we hear so much about the conversion of heart — the interior change that is manifested by our desire to come closer to God. I believe that to have that interior change of heart, we must choose to “do” some things differently.

In my last Lenten reflection I wrote about the three pillars of Lent with a focus on prayer as a springboard to deepening our relationship with God. Prayer, as a form of daily communication with our Creator, can lead us to inspired ideas of where His love is leading us. But how do we put that leading into practice as we act to make positive changes in our lives?

When I was a child my Lenten practice revolved around giving up something I enjoyed. I fasted from chewing gum or drinking soda. As an adult I continue with the practice of fasting — the second pillar of Lent — which I’ve found can be a fruitful endeavor in my Lenten efforts to open myself to that desired change of heart.

Fasting is one of the oldest practices associated with the season of Lent. Scripture is packed with the benefit of fasting from the Old Testament to the New. Throughout history the faithful have not only abstained from eating meat but have fasted from all food for days in an attempt to empty themselves before the Lord in repentance.

I believe there is a sacrificial beauty to the rhythm of fasting — the emptying and filling, and back again. When we physically fast from food, with a contrite heart, we allow our bodies to empty of matter so that a space opens that can be filled with the indwelling spirit of God.

Of course, the act of fasting can help us bring our passions under control and develop that sometimes hard won self-discipline — another important step in growing closer to our Savior. But it also brings us grace and clarity of mind in the presence of suffering.

The physical hunger we feel while fasting not only reminds us of our souls’ experience of hunger for God but can unite us to the suffering of others who are less fortunate. Our greatest desire during the emptying of fasting is to be filled with new insights and develop new behaviors that will deepen our relationship with God and benefit Him and His people.

Remember what Jesus said in chapter four of John’s Gospel, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work.”

Years ago, a friend approached me the day before a scheduled surgery to ask how I was doing. After hearing of my anxiety concerning the whole ordeal, she gently offered to fast during the time I was scheduled to be under the knife. Her heartfelt sacrifice had a powerful impact on my understanding of the grace that comes from emptying self and filling others with hope.

Physical fasting can cleanse the body of its impurities and can assist us in the purification of our souls as we grow in spirit and truth. But I’ve learned that there is another course of fasting that can be taken in our desire for conversion of heart — that of spiritual fasting.

The practice of spiritual fasting can be every bit as challenging as fasting from food. And perhaps it is even more difficult because it draws our attention to our thoughts and actions.

What common thoughts or emotions keep us from realizing God’s grace in our lives? Are we anxious, fearful or worried? Try fasting — emptying yourself of them, and fill yourself with a belief in God’s love and protection. Fast from judging others and choose to see Christ’s presence in them instead. Fast from complaining and increase your appreciation. Fast from anger and develop the practice of patience. You get the idea.

During this Lenten season, this precious time of repentance and change, let’s take the time to ask ourselves what we can fast from to make this world a better place.

I believe that through genuine and steadfast prayer, God will show us how and from what to fast. And whatever we choose to empty ourselves of this Lenten season in hopes of a change of heart, I believe He will bless us for our efforts and fill us with the joy of His Resurrection.

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