“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Joel 2:12-13 NKJV

This could be the year of victory over the demons that have plagued you as long as you can remember. Wouldn’t that be glorious? Wouldn’t it be nice to walk in grace and love? In simplicity and truth? Without the gnawing, constant negative voices of the past that say you’re a fake, a loser, a stingy, selfish, phony who talks about loving God, but harbor all kinds of evil in your heart—wouldn’t it be nice to silence those voices forever? To walk in the power of Christ’s resurrection that you know exists, and have seen in a few humble, selfless, admirable people in your life?

If so, then the Lord invites you into the great Lenten fast. Starting today, turn to God with all your heart, with fasting, prayer and repentance. Be intentional, be simple, don’t be dramatic, just do what you can. Work, go about your daily life, but set your mind on Jesus, and let go of all the things in your daily experience that are not of Him,  avoid everything that does not bring Him honor. Fast from everything that is not of God—for forty days. 

It will be a season of preparation for new life, a season of pruning, purging any dark remains, surrendering everything, both virtue and vice, to the cross of Christ, that the old you might die and be buried with Him, and, conquering death, be raised with Him into new life on Easter Sunday.

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Proverbs 4:18

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Malachi 4:2 

After your fast, with the dawning of sun on Easter morning, the day of Christ’s resurrection, the Morning Star will truly arise in your heart in a new and beautiful way, and you will be renewed, changed, full of joy and gladness, skipping about like a calf from the stall.

But wait, I have repented. I have been crucified with Christ, Christ does live in me. Surely, dear one, this is true. But each year at this time, we have the opportunity to take our walk with Him a little further up the mountain, emptying more of ourselves and acquiring the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in our lives, like John the Baptist who said of Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

There is a story of an old monk who lived as a hermit and would, occasionally, visit a monastery not too far from his simple abode, and ask for some bread or anything they might have to nourish himself, and which he could share with others he knew, older than himself.

One day during his visit he said, “I hope I am not too much trouble. If so, please don’t worry, I can stop my visits if I am a bother. You see, a monk is like a dog. If you give him a kick, that does him good. And if you don’t kick him, but give him some bread, that does him good as well.” 

The old man didn’t expect anything from anyone, but treatment as one would an old dog, sometimes kind, sometimes rough. He bowed to everyone, asking their blessing, both to religious leaders, laymen, and even peasants and children. He was so full of inexpressible grace that a joyful sense of celebration ran through the monastery every time he visited.

In humble men like this, who radiate grace, one feels that two great virtues are always at work: the mystery of repentance and the mystery of love. They are not men who have been converted, who have repented. They are men who are being converted, who are repenting.

The Lords’ call to repentance does not mean that we are to be converted once only, not that we should repent from time to time. It means that our lives should be a constant conversion, a constant repentance. 

Paraphrased from Archimandrite Vasileios, Hymn of Entry

And this selfless, grace-filled, beautiful life, can be ours. Lent can be a beginning, annual opportunity to enact permanent change. It is a fixed period of discipline and simplicity, focusing more than usual on the things of God. But one of these years, and it could be this year, you might break through and make this discipline of turning to God with all your heart a permanent part of your life, a constant conversion, a constant repentance. Then, beloved, your life, like the old monk in the story, will reflect the irrepressible grace of Jesus Christ, and true joy will flood your soul, and you will begin to truly partake of the freedom for which Christ set you free.

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