Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day this year. As a woman who didn’t grow up observing Lent until the last 15 years, I’m much more familiar with exchanging sweet notes and sweet treats than giving up something I desire and indulge. Fasting and feasting seem like polar opposites, and yet this week, they collide. And maybe it’s a reminder that both fasting and feasting are holy.
Fasting—withholding something in your life in order to bring spiritual clarity—is a way you can prepare your heart for the feast. If Easter and the resurrection is the feast, the cross is a reminder of the fast.
There would be no resurrection if there had been no cross. No perfect, unblemished sacrifice. A few years ago, one of my friends traveled to India where he observed the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. He took a group of university students to watch the slaughter of goat after goat, an act of thanksgiving for God’s mercy. He said it was gruesome and difficult to watch. The thought of slitting an animal’s throat and seeing all of that blood is not on my top-ten travel bucket list.
A blood sacrifice is not something our western ears or eyes are familiar with. But shouldn’t we consider the ultimate sacrifice that gave us freedom from continuing the slaughter of imperfect sacrifices? As New Testament believers, we realize there was only one substitution for sin—Jesus Christ. I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 3:25-26 in The Message. “God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.”
In light of the cross, this week I consider the season of lent. What sacrifice will I make this season to help me focus on the cross? How will I use these 40 days to draw closer to the One who created me and gave His all for me? In the past, I’ve fasted from various food items or even caffeine. Each time I was tempted to want those items, it caused me to consider how little my sacrifice was in comparison to the cross.
Sometimes, these 40 days have been not about the fasting of a worldly pleasure as much as the development of my heart. Instead of just skipping the Coke Zero, I’ve considered how much different my life might be if I memorized one verse a day. Would that cause me to consider my Savior more if I immersed myself into His Word and hid it in my heart? What about praying for 40 people who need to hear the gospel? What if I purposely had 40 gospel conversations in the next 40 days? What if I prayed for 40 different people groups who have little or no access to the gospel?
This year Lent will not only be the beginning of a fast in order to focus on the cross. It will be a feast of preparing my heart to grow more intimately with Christ—to know Him more deeply and long for the day believers gather together at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
“Even now—this is the Lord’s declaration—turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” —Joel 2:12
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.