Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Wilderness, Fasting, Humility

“But know this,” says YHWH: “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear open your heart not your clothes!” Return to YHWH your God, who is gracious and deeply loving as a mother, quick to forgive, abundantly tender-hearted – and relents from inflicting disaster. Joel 2:12.

The Journey of Lent is a Wilderness journey and is associated with fasting. Some people fast from meat, or soda, or TV during Lent. Fasting is a long- practiced spiritual discipline designed to empty one’s self in order to be filled by the Spirit. The symbolism of fasting is that doing without your most basic needs, food and water, is an act of trust and submission. We submit our need for food in trust that God will provide, much like the ancient Israelites trusted God in the Wilderness to provide the manna needed to sustain life.

You are tender and compassionate, YHWH—slow to anger, and always loving; your indignation doesn’t endure forever and your anger lasts only for a short time. You never treat us as our sins deserve; you don’t repay us in kind for the injustices we do. For as high as heaven is above the earth, so great is your love for those who revere you. As far away as the east is from the west, that is how far you remove our sins from us! As tenderly as parents treat their children, that’s how tenderly you treat your worshipers, YHWEH! For you know what we are made of – you remember that we’re nothing but dust. Psalm 103:8-14

From a psychological standpoint, submission in trust is called humility. Psychologically, humility is to let go the idea that you are in ultimate control of what you think you need for comfort and happiness, be it material or intangible. We like to think we control our circumstances as well as our attitudes and perspectives, but very often we do not. And very often, the attitude we choose is not an attitude that reflects the benevolent love of God…either toward others or toward ourself.

In ecclesiastical language we call humility, or self emptying, kenosis. Fasting, a symbol of kenosis, or self emptying, is essentially the willingness to reduce your neediness – physiological and psychological – to humble yourself in a gesture of trust and prayer before God. It is no mistake that the root of humility is humus – dirt, soil (ashes) – the same root as human. It is in the Wilderness of humility that we accept our humanness – our inability to count on anything but God to provide everything we need.

This is the sort of fasting that pleases me: remove the chains of injustice! Undo the ropes of the yoke! Let those who are oppressed go free, and break every yoke you encounter! Share your bread with those who are hungry, and shelter homeless poor people! Clothe those who are naked and don’t hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood! Do this and your light will shine like the dawn- and healing will break forth like lightening! Your integrity will go before you and the glory of YHWEH will be your rearguard. Isaiah 58:6-9

May you go forth into this season of Lenten fasting and wilderness with complete trust. On this journey, may God surprise you and affirm you by the lengthening of the days and the greening of earth. May you see Gods promise of new life all around you and may it give you constant hope. May you walk with Jesus in humanity, in humility, in kenosis and approach with Him the great tests of Love along the way. May you remain committed to hold His hand in darkness all the way to the cross, knowing fully, faithfully, that God is here and always, always waiting for you with light and life.

The love and peace of Christ be yours, Peggy

© Peggy Beatty, Feb 2011

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