When we think of Lent, it rarely calls to mind feeding our desires. Rather, for those who fast or engage in other penitential practices, Lent feels like a a seasons of denying our hunger and of mortifying desires. Perhaps it is even a season where we feel physically hungry for the first time in a long time. This is well and as it should be.
But I would argue there is a hunger we should feed this Lent: The hunger for God.
Buried deep within every human heart is a deep longing for God. It is a craving for the infinite, for joy without end, and for transcendent life that does not cease. We are frequently asleep to this deep hunger and it remains unconscious. For many, this cry of the heart is stifled or almost entirely extinguished by the cares of the world, by entertainment, by doubt, by the endless quest for pleasure, for fulfillment, and for power.
Yet, for all this, the hunger does not cease. Deep within, the craving stirs, and in our quieter moments, when the shallow stream of impressions ceases, a dissatisfaction with the world grows.
A longing for something more, something that we cannot name, echoes quietly. It is almost like the ache of some romance long-lost but still recalled; a melancholy but sweet memory of a nameless joy that pierces us, and in these moments the pleasures of the world seem quite pale and hollow—which indeed they are.
These moments present us with a choice. They are moments of reckoning with eternity. “Choose you this day.” Death or life. Time or eternity. The infinite or the finite. God or the world. Momentary pleasure or triumphant joy.
Will we listen to this call, this inner voice? Or will we numb its uncomfortable stirring by immersing ourselves again in the torrent of sensory stimulation? Will we turn to prayer and go deeper, or we will suppress the silent ache with addictions, with consumerism, with endless distractions? Our answer is intertwined with our eternal destiny.
Salvation does involve what we do; but I would argue it has far more to do with what we desire. Effort and work are not about earning anything; rather, they are but proofs of our desire God. We can never force God to do anything, but we can make our hearts ready.
As Lent begins this Ash Wednesday, I challenge you to heed this inner voice. Allow the longing to grow—feed it, even. Allow yourself to feel the hunger for God, and then make space for Him. Strip away all that is inessential in your life so you can find the one thing necessary.
“Ask, and it will be given you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For every one who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.”