As part of a faith community, I’ve observed spiritual fasts before – primarily abstaining from certain foods – in order to follow after the heart of God. But I’ve never had a reason to observe Lent. I love my brothers and sisters that do – please be clear on that. Maybe if you put all of us together, with all of our strengths and expressions, you’d get a more complete picture of the heart of God.
This year, however, can I be honest? This year I’ve struggled. Hugely. A war raging in my heart with my faith – the one thing that’s been so solid all these years.
The faith that I’ve had for years isn’t waning, but it is digging down and growing some roots. That’s painful, folks. And what God has been asking my heart lately is, “What are you doing to take care of my people?” As in, “What are you doing, practically, to take care of my people?” Can I take the focus off of my “relationship with God” and “what God has for me in this season” and put it where He’s asking me to? As in, James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble …”
Or how about this? Matthew 19:21 – “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor …”
Or this – Acts 2:44, 45 – “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
We have great luxury, dear hearts. The fact that I’m on my laptop, getting frustrated about this, and in a minute am going to go to a Starbuck’s to get coffee to continue my schoolwork means I have great privilege. I may be transitionally poor, counting my pennies and wondering why, financially, I decided to return to school, but I had the luxury to return to school. Seriously. To get a Master’s, for Heaven’s sake.
How many homeless people do I pass every day downtown (ironically on my way to social work classes), as well as hungry people and people without health insurance and people who need drug and alcohol treatment? It makes my head spin and, quite literally, creates this terrible, ripping, stabbing hurt in the middle of my chest. No exaggeration there – I see the need and it physically hurts.
And then I look toward the church, my place of worship, my once place of extra support, and the emphasis I hear is on our personal relationship with God. Please don’t get me wrong. That’s important. But no more important than taking care of other people. And I’m talking about all people. People who think the same as we do, and people who don’t. People who respect our faith, and people who don’t.
So here’s the part where I get a little personal with you.
In Oregon, not so long ago, there were some Measures to be voted on. Some pretty controversial measures that would have created additional taxes for some in the State and would have increased revenues to public schools and public programs. Technically, I’m still registered to vote in Washington, so I didn’t fill out a ballot. But I’m sure you can guess which way I would have voted. The negativity raised around those measures, however, and the emphasis on not giving up personal resources nearly ripped me apart. And hand in hand, enter name calling and disrespect. Even if one did disagree, I’m still wondering what the purpose of creating such a divisive split among voters was. As in, why, in the church, did we feel it was ok to feel we had the market on complete truth around voting processes and opinions? Didn’t God create us all individually? And if I felt deeply convicted to vote for these measures, and others did not, did that truly mean I missed the heart of God? Really? And where did the source of this negativity spring from (besides individual people)? Facebook.
Enter the period of observing Lent and fasting from Facebook. I need to figure out why I’m so different than people in the church and be less concerned about logging on and being grieved in my spirit every time. I need to figure out if I belong in a different denomination. I need to get closer to the heart of God and a little farther away from sources of negativity. I need to listen for myself what God is saying about all of the millions of Americans that go without. Everyday, in some way or another, millions of Americans go without. God didn’t have us prove ourselves to Him to receive His grace. I don’t believe that we need to make people prove that they’re worthy to receive resources. Subjectively, in my own personal opinion, I don’t think that’s how God would have us treat each other.
In trying to think of a way to end this posting, I find myself struggling. I wonder if there are like-minded people out there. I can name six faithful followers off the top of my head. Six. If I think of people who don’t prescribe to a particular faith belief but are passionate about the needs of people, I can think of … well. Let’s not play a numbers game, I guess. It’s significantly more. I don’t pretend to have the market on all things right or virtuous. I just know the concerns that exist in my spirit and can name six other believers with the same concerns. Do I keep looking for like minded people or do I just continue on? Do I continue in a “denomination” I struggle with or do I search for something new?
Don’t know. Guess I’ll just keep doing what I think I’m supposed to.