Most religions acknowledge a time for fasting and for feasting. Tomorrow, after the celebrations of Mardi Gras have ended, Ash Wednesday ushers in the great time of Lent - a time of fasting from what may be getting in one's way of accepting God's love. A time of preparation. A time to learn to die. A time of learning to surrender to the vast What Is. A time of learning to turn and continually return to God, to consciously seek God's help. A time of learning that we are more than what our egos want so desperately to hang on to. We learn we are more than just hangers-on. We are those who can actually grow into God. We can trade in our desperation for love.
When Jesus struggled in the desert, he relied on scripture to foil the illusions and temptations of power, wealth, and independence that were placed before him. In the wonderful hymn, Love Divine, All Love Excelling, we sing of finding our place where we cast our crowns before Jesus, lost in wonder, love, and praise. When we dare to take off the trappings of this world (they will be taken away from us sooner or later anyway so we might as well get used to offering them up now), we may indeed feel a little lost. But we will also be very much found.
In the desert, Jesus found himself tended to by angels. May you also know that as you try to give something up, or take on a new spiritual practice, or to simply feel God's grace in a current loss or transition, you do not travel alone. We are blessed to journey together. What are we seeking? To find God where we have been all along.
When we do not run away in fear, but patiently stay with our struggles, the outer space of solitude gradually becomes an inner space, a space in our heart where we come to know the presence of the Spirit who has already been given to us. In the solitude of our heart we can listen to our questions and - as the German poet Rilke says so beautifully - gradually grow, without even noticing it, into the answer.
- Henri Nouwen, The Selfless Way of Christ
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
- Matthew 4:11