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I have been observing Lent for eight years now. The first two years felt awkward and foreign. I was uncomfortable and unfamiliar with fasting and it often felt like I was trying to maintain a pretence even though I sincerely desired to participate in the season. Over the years, my sense of awkwardness has given way to a sense of anticipation and longing for this time of year — especially after the indulgent opulence and chaotic bustle of our North American Christmas celebrations.   Despite my best—and sometimes worst—efforts, I find the seasons of Christmas and Easter, when we Christians join together to celebrate and glorify our Saviour for Who He is and what He has done, are the times when I am most susceptible to distracted selfishness. I am caught off-guard and ill-prepared. I find myself preoccupied with my own desires and needs, and driven to a distracted and frenzied business to fulfill them. In this state, my participation in Christmas and Easter is divided; I follow the motions of joyful worship, but with a sense deep within that these actions are false.     I can and often do blame our society for the endless appetite for novelty and spectacle these seasons arouse. I can shift the blame to the pressures of advertising and the need to buy in a consumeristic society. But, as I reflect back on the last few years, Lent and the fasts I choose each year have made me keenly aware that it is my own fears and insecurities, my own greediness and sense of entitlement, my own vanity and desire for comfort that distracts and preoccupies me.   Moreover, by the time Lent rolls around, I find myself caught in patterns and habits of living that revolve around nourishing my basest appetites. And while these appetites and my compulsions to feed them are magnified at Christmas and Easter, they are there throughout the year—governing my spiritual as well as my daily, physical life.   This is why I long for Lent and a time of fasting. It is mysterious to me, but each year as I give up things like shopping, or Facebook, or TV, I am able to see and experience the hurts, the fears, and the insecurities that I use those things to protect. In fasting I am given a glimpse of the broken and monstrous reality of my inner life. In fasting, I see the extent I am willing to go in order to pacify or nullify this reality. In fasting, I must ask myself why I continually seek safety and fulfillment from the world rather than from my Saviour and King.   However, this self-reflexive state is not where the Lenten season leaves me. While I would like to say it has lead to great epiphanies and profound revelations, I cannot. Where Lent has lead me is a place I long to return to year after year. In fasting, as I become conscious of the the various places of my brokenness and fear, I find that I am not alone.   Rather, this is a place where Christ dwells. This is a place where I am gently lead through the ruins of my own depravity and am given glimpses of Christ, preaching the gospel to the poor and the needy—myself among them. This are the place where I am lead into the quiet and prayerful presence of my Lord and my God, my Abba.   Finally and fittingly, Lent is the place in time where I am lead to the foot of cross of my Saviour.   Lent is the place in time where I am prepared to see and understand, each year, that I need Christ as much as I ever have. Lent is the place in time where distractions and my own appetites are quelled enough to join my voice truly and gladly with the angel at the empty tomb to say: “He is Risen!”

 

Photos by Debbie Preuss

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