Church of the Resurrection


Posts tagged: lent

Lenten Devotional Week Four: Leaning into Hunger

March 14, 2018

Without Lent, Easter tends to catch us off guard. But after the forty-day pilgrimage in the wilderness, we are ready to keep the Easter feast, to exult with all our hearts that Jesus is alive. Inasmuch as Lent has been preparing us pilgrims for Easter, Easter has a way of preparing us for heaven. It does so by satisfying our hunger, strengthening our commitment, and restoring our soul. In short, Easter- including the “little Easters” of Sunday worship throughout the year- is a taste of heaven, made available now through the power of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is here. Come and see!

….Jesus has given us an open invitation to come to His house and be satisfied on Easter Sunday and beyond. That is why he referred to himself as the Bread of Life who satisfies our hunger and the Living Water who satisfies our thirst… Those who embrace the forty-day journey of Lent have done so because they trust Jesus is telling the truth about Himself: he is a feast for hungry people. And He was telling the truth about us: we are hungrier than we know. -from The Good of Giving Up, by Aaron Damiani

When I was in high school, my best friend and I spent a semester abroad. After our first few weeks of roaming starry-eyed through the streets of a new city, we noticed a distinct pattern to our walks. About 30 minutes in I would become hungry, and the walk would cease to be a lovely wandering and turn into a mission: find food. I quickly noticed that my friend did not seem to have the same pattern of hunger as myself. When I asked her about it, she laughed and told me that she rarely noticed hunger, and often missed meals because her body didn’t remind her it was hungry.

I was completely astounded, as hunger was almost an extension of my identity at the time. I could eat every few hours and still feel hungry for more food. As time has passed and my metabolism has slowed to a more regular pace, I have developed a better picture of how my friend could walk around with something other than the next pain au chocolat on her mind.

Every year, Lent gives me a chance to step back into my teenage relationship with hunger. This Lenten hunger is much deeper and broader than a simple desire for whatever I’m fasting from, though that is always the springboard. As I transform my daily routines through fasting, I find myself becoming aware of a whole ocean of hunger that lies just beneath the surface of my everyday distractions. The first few weeks of Lent, the hunger seems to be for more trivial things, like a change of pace or rest from an overloaded schedule. But as Lent progresses and Holy Week draws nearer, I begin to realize that the hunger is for something much more profound- it is for peace from sin and suffering. It is an unquenchable thirst for heaven and healing and wholeness; it is a hunger for nothing less than Jesus himself.

The problem, of course, is that my sinful nature wants to keep me from quenching that thirst. If I’m honest, the long weeks of Lent are not a triumphant exercise in replacing all of the things I’m fasting for with more Bible time and prayer. Instead, they are a long, agonizing reveal of how profound and deep-rooted my sins are, and how effectively those sins keep me from running to Jesus. I stumble along, wondering why I always struggle with depression this time of year and why these last few weeks of Lent inevitably find me wanting to escape to any location other than home and regular life. I’m parched and starving, stripped of my defense mechanisms through fasting, desperate for Living Water and the Bread of Life, and I still don’t have it within me to feast on Jesus.

This is why Easter will never fail to astound me. I find myself stumbling into Holy Week like a starved person, desperate for something I cannot buy for myself, and find a feast waiting for me. No matter how hungry I am, there is a fullness of joy waiting for me there that brings the satisfaction I could not find anywhere else. The truth of a Savior who knows my profound, helpless hunger and offers nothing less than Himself to satisfy it is the food I’ve been fasting for. I was indeed hungrier than I could ever know, and the taste of Heaven that is given at Easter is more satisfying than any meal I’ve ever had, even as a voracious teenager.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Prayerfully look over your Lent so far. As you’ve fasted, what hungers have been stirred in your soul?  

  2. Stop and bring those hungers before the Lord. What does he show you about their source?

  3. If you are not feeling particularly hungry for Easter right now, what are some ways that you can finish your Lent by creating space for that hunger? Is there anything the Lord is asking you to give up in these final days of Lent?

Read the third post in our devotional series here.

Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Fr. Aaron Damiani, the rector of our church plant, Immanuel Anglican in Chicago.

Lenten Devotional Week Three: The Surprising Burden of "Living Your Best Life"

March 08, 2018

I don’t know which is heavier: the burden of self-hatred or that of self-blessing. It seems that our churches are filled with people who are crushed by both. On one shoulder, they carry shame that their dreams haven’t come true. They hoped for something and got burned...On the other shoulder they carry the responsibility to affirm themselves, “ I must assert myself, express myself, muster confidence from deep within.” But what happens when this confidence runs out? Lent is a good medicine for individuals and the communities they inhabit. It is a season for us to receive the humility of Christ in such a way that frees us to pour ourselves out in love toward others. -from The Good of Giving Up, by Aaron Damiani.

Have you ever gone back and read your old journals? It’s not always pleasant. Amidst moments of clarity and truth, mine have a lot of minutia and friend drama. I was not exactly the child-genius I wish I could consider myself. 

If you, like me, grew up journaling, you may understand the temptation to view prayer time as an opportunity to download all of your problems to God. In some ways that’s a beautiful thing–God wants us to cast all of our burdens onto him. Opening my quiet time with this outflow has been very helpful because it expands the bounds of where I allow God in my life. Sometimes I start my time by pulling out my phone and inviting that friend to coffee, or praying through articles on the New York Times website whose cacophony I’d rather be ignoring. And sometimes I consider my own big decisions and make pros and cons lists with God to help me analyze. 

But as of late, my temptation has been to grow this time longer and longer, until sharing my current stressors was consuming almost half of my prayer time. I felt a lot of pressure as I tried to figure out my own future and make my own dreams come true, so naturally, I wanted God to handle the pressure instead. What I didn’t realize is that I was trying to “handle” my time with him in the process, desiring an answer from him instead of desiring him. 

During Lent, I’ve sensed God calling me to just pick up my Bible and read. Progressively I’ve been making my way through Mark before I move on to the other Gospels, reading large chunks at a time, and rather quickly. I’ve begun to reading the stories like they were a book instead of some puzzle that I had to crack to figure out its specific application for my life. Not only did reading the Bible become more enjoyable in the process, but for a moment, it took me out of myself and feeling the need to solve my own future. By the time I finished my first session, I couldn’t say I had a kernel of truth that was going to solve my problems. But I did have a little perspective on them. I felt less crushed under the weight of the self-blessing that Damiani talks about, constantly striving to "live my best life" you might say, and more like I had the freedom to take one small step followed by the next. 

That’s what the season of Lent does, it allows us to step outside of the stream of self-blessing that actually keeps us locked in shame and away from God’s presence. And as a result, perhaps we’re able to (slightly) less begrudgingly offer to do the dishes, or give someone a ride when it’s out of our way, or stop and talk with the woman at the checkout counter, because we don’t need to be realizing our dreams at all points throughout the day. Lent reorders our desires so that we may, if we’re not careful, actually begin to desire this refreshing dose of humility. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are there areas in your life where good self-motivation as you work towards your goals has turned into self-blessing? 

  2. What would it look like for you to let go of this pressure and the shame that results when these goals aren’t accomplished exactly has you expected?

  3. As you walk through your day, are there any small opportunities to step out of the stream of self-focus through your actions? Are the chunks of time that you can set aside for this specific purpose

Read the second post in our devotional series here.

Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Fr. Aaron Damiani, the rector of our church plant, Immanuel Anglican in Chicago.