Today is Ash Wednesday and also the first day of Lent. Not everyone in the Protestant faith practices lent but it can be a great way to prepare for Easter and practice discipline. I was reminded about it listening to the radio this morning and immediately had the thought that I should probably give up facebook. I didn’t want to, though! I love facebook and being connected to everyone. As I got out of my car and walked into the building the “suggestion” grew inside as I argued with myself so that by the time I got to my desk I decided that God would like for me to do that – take a break from facebook for this 40-day journey to Easter, so, I am.
I’ve been looking for resources online, maybe a printable devotional I could use with my family but haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. While reading and searching I’ve realized that there can be much more to this journey toward Easter with Jesus than just giving up something for Him. Some people choose to “add” something to their day-to-day life sometimes, like more intentionally doing something for someone in need, forgiving someone, purposefully spending extra time reading God’s Word or quietly thinking/meditating, intentionally thanking God or journaling praises every day…many possibilities. This time can be more than just a time to deprive myself of something I like! That makes it even more appealing to me.
I’ve been restless the last few weeks and I know that is largely due to not spending quality time with God – quiet, alone, on purpose, just to be with Him. I have friendships, or really acquaintances, in which I don’t really ever get past small talk or pleasantries to really know that person, to dig deeper and grow close to them. Those surface relationships are okay but don’t really fulfill me, at least not for long (as I’m sure they don’t do much for those friends). I need much more than pleasant greetings, polite questions of “how are you?” and smiles. I think we all long for deep connection with someone or several someones. That is what I’m longing for in my relationship with God: deeper connection, closeness, a clear ear to hear his voice, a tender heart sensitive to His Spirit, a thriving soul. The surface stuff, the “microwave” prayers on the way to work, the quick read of a Bible chapter on my phone during lunch, the nice devotional thought posted by a friend on the Internet – those can help me survive as a believer but surviving has become not good enough.
After the earthquake in Haiti I saw a report by Anderson Cooper about a little 4-year-old boy who had survived days underneath wreckage and had been rescued. When they pulled him out, he was emaciated with sunken eyes, dehydrated and lethargic from lack of food and water, his little arms and legs hanging limply. He had survived but no one wanted him to live out the rest of his life in that state! In just a few days, after getting plenty of food and clean water, being washed and dressed, being loved on and cared for, the little boy sat happily by Anderson with plump cheeks, a healthy glow to his skin and shining eyes. He was thriving.
Do you think many of us who follow Jesus are just surviving? Jesus said He came to give us a “rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10) I’ve had a growing longing for ALL that Jesus has for me…even though I’ve known Him and had times in my personal history when I’ve felt closer to Him, stronger, and healthier. I’ve been drifting lately – hungry and just getting by. Through this 40-day adventure toward Easter, I want God to nourish me, redirect me, draw me in, teach me, shape me, and use me. I want to thrive!