Lenten greetings to you. If you’re like me, at this point, a couple of weeks into the season of Lent, you’re probably struggling to keep up whatever practice or abstention you planned on Ash Wednesday. That’s how habits work — they’re difficult to start and challenging to break once engrained.
This year, we need to rethink our Lenten journey. Not to throw out the practices and fasting, but to give an extra measure of grace for the difficulty of making real change happen amidst a world turned upside down by the global, national, and personal changes we have experienced over the last year. Please, give yourself some grace.
Instead, I want to remind us this month that the Lenten journey is ultimately about healing and wholeness. Consider this: why we fast, why we adapt our practices, why we focus in this season on the journey to the cross — it is all about tuning in to the sacrificial way of Jesus and finding it for ourselves. And we do not tune in to sacrificial habits just for the fun of it (are they fun?), but rather because through sacrifice, cleansing and purification happen. Surrender leads to healing. We are a people in need of healing. Always. But now, perhaps more than ever, we are aware of how broken things are, and we feel the longing that all things would be made right, somehow.
I’ll repeat it — sacrificial practices are about seeking healing. I don’t give up sweets or red meat to punish my body, but because they are empirically less healthy for me than salads and tea. Red meat isn’t inherently bad. It’s just not as healthy as it could be for my body, so I perhaps abstain from it (sacrifice) to clarify and cleanse my system. Or we take on the practice of walking regularly, not because sitting around is sinful, but because regular exercise brings greater wholeness to our physical body, which is to be a temple of the Living God.
I wonder if Lent this year could be a kick-off for us to enter more fully into the rest of our lives with healing and wholeness. (As an aside, those two words, healing and wholeness come from the same Old English root word, hal, inextricably linked together in the formation of healthy, whole, sound bodies and souls).
Healing and wholeness are not only about our physical bodies. They are concepts that we must dig into regarding our spiritual, mental, emotional, and social selves as well. They are at the heart of who we are and who we seek to be. Remember the closing of Psalm 51, where which reminds us that “the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” Sacrifice leads us to a place where the healing can begin. Much of the time, we feel the brokenness. From that place, the healing can commence.
Will you let this season be a time to heal? What parts of you are broken and frail? How might you invite Christ to journey deeper into those parts of yourself to bring about healing and wholeness? Indeed, our bodies age and begin to grow weary. But I’m talking about something more profound. There is a wholeness that is beyond the physical and involves our entire self. This is the healing and wholeness we seek.
So, if you’ve given up something, remember that the sacrifice is meant to purify and bring strength. And if you’re struggling, it’s ok. That’s why we have each other, the community of the Body of Christ. We want healing and wholeness not just for ourselves but for all people, and to this end, we work together to support and sustain that healing over a lifetime together. May the brokenness of our hearts lead us deeper into reliance upon Christ and the sure restoration only the Lord can bring.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Seth Thomas