February 17th is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Around this time last year I wrote a reflection on fasting as it is portrayed in Isaiah, wondering at the nature of a true fast. I think it’s sort of funny that I end up writing about this stuff, because fasting (like most spiritual disciplines) has never, until very recently, been a big part of my life, and I am not very good at it. I’ve not grown up in churches that observed the church year, nor do I attend one now, so my reflections on the ancient practices such as Lent are usually entirely my own, for better or for worse, written as a newcomer. I say this as a sort of caveat, since, in the coming weeks, I will be posting four or five personal and observed reasons why Lent’s extended period of fasting and willing deprivation is good for you, Oh Evangelical Protestant (and of course by you, I mean me and hopefully you).
As I’ve been shaping the drafts over the last week, I’ve realized that this is, at its core, an attempt to understand the spiritual importance of hard times. I know it’s rough out there for a lot of us. I’ve spent the last three months sicker than I can ever remember being before, and compared to what some of my friends and family have gone through this year, I got off easy. Wouldn’t it be of great comfort to know that God can use such things to enliven and deepen your soul? I think Lent might show us how if we let it.