This week, I listened to the second introduction video from the Biola University Lent Project. There are three intro videos from theologian Julia Canlis (I wrote about the first one a couple weeks ago) and they talk about the meaning of Lent.
In the first video, Julie talked about being in the desert, or those times in life when we feel empty or disconnected. So in part 2, she continues talking about the desert, specifically Jesus’ time in the desert, how he prepared for that time and how he was tested by the accuser. Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert so he could be stronger, more prepared and connected to his father. Julie said, “Fasting from food, lets Jesus feed on something else– the words of his Father.” It brought him clarity for the tests to come.
Julie also notes that Jesus goes into the desert just after his baptism, just after he hears a voice from Heaven say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16). He gets his strength for his desert fast from his Father’s love. He reflects on that identity for 40 days. And then how does the accuser tempt him? “If you are the Son of God…” He challenges Jesus’ identity. But Jesus doesn’t need to prove who he is. He just rests in knowing he is God’s beloved. And so should we. We don’t have to prove it. We don’t have to prove ourselves. We are beloved.
So Julie asks of us, what do we need to fast from to prepare for the identity test? A certain brand of Christian? Or a carefully prepared identity? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought over the past several months… who am I and who do I want to be? What identity am I creating for myself? And is it consistent? Am I one person at home, someone else at work, someone else with friends or family, and someone else here in the online world? Why am I afraid to be 100% me 100% of the time? What’s keeping me from resting in my identity as God’s beloved?
I can feel the the conflicts in my identity; I’m definitely not resting in the love of God. Listening to Julie’s video made me want to do some serious self-reflection, removed from everyday life where pressures and ambitions and all kinds of influences can overwhelm me. So we’ve been considering a weekend retreat of sorts, this Lent, where we can stop and center ourselves and remove distractions, reflect on who we are as God’s beloved and let go of who we aren’t, and prepare ourselves for Easter.
Julie says, “We all have things we turn to for comfort, again and again. But these are things that your false self requires. And Lent beckons you to fast from what you turn to in those moments. So put yourself in a desert for Lent. Put yourself in a desert and see if the words ‘you are my beloved’ are big enough to satisfy you.”
I want those words to be big enough to satisfy me.