Growing up in the Southern Baptist church, Lent was not something I was familiar with. My understanding of Lent went something like this: people give up sweets or soda for a couple of months and then pig out on Easter.
I didn’t get it. After I joined the United Methodist church and went to a United Methodist seminary where I earned a master’s degree in Christian Education…I still didn’t get it. I think my precise thoughts on the matter were: This is dumb. Aren’t we always supposed to be engaging in penitence and confession to prepare ourselves for Christ? (Deep down, I’m still a bit of a Baptist girl).
And so, I just ignored Lent for several years. I avoided Ash Wednesday service, didn’t give anything up and used the time known as Lent to memorize Scripture, pray more and practice stillness. These are all good things, and my faith grew stronger with them. But really, there was no deep Spiritual journey for me in engaging in these practices. I just did them because I thought I was supposed to do something for Lent, even though Lent really meant very little to me.
And then, last February, my husband bought me a book. My husband rarely buys me books. He’s not against book buying or book giving, he just understands that the selection of books is a somewhat sacred process for me and doesn’t want to assume or impose by giving me something of his choosing rather than mine. I say all of that to tell you that when Chris gives me a book, I pay attention to it because I know it’s not something he does lightly.
40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger, A Different Kind of Fast by Alicia Britt Chole forever changed my “journey” of Lent. For the first time ever, I got it. More than that, Alicia’s thoughtful devotions and deeply spiritual reflections on fasting things like regret, keeping faith tidy, “fixing” things, religious profiling, spectatorship, comparison, discontentment and escapism took me on a spiritual journey that left me breathless and hungering for God in a whole new way.
Finally, Lent made sense. Finally, Lent was a spiritual journey. Finally, I felt myself walking with Jesus through the wilderness these 40 days.
40 Days of Decrease goes beyond the traditional Lenten fasts. Like the contemplative sages of old who lived in the desert and guided pilgrims into a transformative encounter with the HOLY, Chole’s book guides those of us seeking a deeper and more meaningful faith into the desert places of our souls and leads us into a transformative encounter with the great I AM.
Are you hungering for God? Are you thirsting to be filled with his Spirit? Are you craving an experience with the risen Christ? I would invite you to take this 40 Days of Decrease journey with me. Every Tuesday and Thursday from now until Easter, I will be posting about 40 Days of Decrease here. I’ll discuss the ways that God is speaking and changing me though this journey, and pose some questions for reflection. You can always share your own experiences with me by emailing me or leaving me a comment.
I’ve placed links to Amazon all over this post so that you can purchase your own copy of the book.
This year, let’s do a different type of fast. Let’s take a walk in the wilderness and allow God to feed our souls so that we can emerge transformed, rejuvenated and on fire to bring God’s love into the world.
As Chole writes:
Faith, in general, is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrender of our souls. Lent, in kind, is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God. Decrease is holy only when its destination is love.(pg. 2)
Blessings and Peace,