By Emily Holladay
This is one article in an on-going series for Lent 2018 by the Reverend Emily Holladay. Check out her other articles at her blog, Rev on the Edge.
Chocolate. Facebook. TV. Telephone. Soft drinks. Fast Food.
Every year, Lent conveniently falls just far enough after New Year’s that the practice of fasting often becomes a new way to attain the resolution we previously dropped. We stop eating chocolate or give up soft drinks with the “side benefit” that we will lose weight in the process. But, other than giving us something to complain about at our friend’s birthday party when we can’t eat the cake, what do these fasts do?
Do we meet with God during dessert time, or take remembrance of Christ, the living water, when we take a sip of a non-bubbly drink? When we are tempted to cheat, who are we failing – ourselves, or God?
Jesus fasts before his ministry begins. For 40 days and 40 nights (read: a long time), he abstains from food and drink, approaching God in the wilderness as an empty vessel.
Jesus knows what I often forget – it is in our emptiness that God fills us. Even at our most depleted, God welcomes us to a life of sustenance beyond measure.
In Christ’s fasting, though, he does not just revel in time with his creator. In Christ’s fasting, his mind and body disoriented from lack of nutrition, he meets the one who challenges hope. He is tempted, possibly by his own desperation, to feed himself, quench his own thirst, and prove who he is.
And Jesus knows all these things are possible. Even in his deepest hunger, he is fully God. He could end his own fast as easily as he could turn water into wine. He could shut the tempting on up “for good.” He could restore his own mind.
But he understands that he does not fast for himself. He does not go hungry to prove a point, nor does he feed himself to prove who he is. He meets temptation with a clarity of purpose that runs far deeper than hunger or thirst. Whatever does not serve his purpose does not earn his energy. His drive to be filled by God runs through his bones.
Delirium. Exhaustion. Dehydration. Nothing can stop Jesus from his pursuit of the divine.
This is how I wish I could live during Lent. Driven towards God by a sense of clarity and purpose. I wish I approached the Lenten season with hope that God would meet me in my emptiness. I wish I could more easily name the fast that would cause my bones to cry out for God.
Maybe, however, it’s not the fast, but the heart that needs changing.
And so, I meet God with my pen. I find God in the wilderness of my mind. I sense God filling the emptiness of my soul as the ink fills my pages, and I know that resurrection looms around the corner.
This year, I eat my chocolate and remember that something sweeter is coming. I meet God on the empty page, as visual representation of the fast I need; the fast that fills my soul like ink on paper.
This post is a part of a Lenten discipline I am participating in to write each day on a specific word. These posts reflect daily thought processes and conversations with God as I journey through this season of repentance and reflection. I hope they will be meaningful to those of you who find this space and journey with me.