According to the ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The idea is that whether simple or difficult, every venture must have a starting point. If we never start, there is no hope for success.
The journey of the great Lenten fast is difficult because it is inward, and requires one to put away from life all things which are not of God. It is a time of revelation and cleansing, pruning away and purging, a time to turn the soil of the soul, preparing it for new life. And to achieve all that is hoped for, you must begin.
Once you take the single step toward the Passion of Christ, and begin the journey, denying yourself in both prescribed and personal ways, you find that the Lord is right there with you, encouraging, comforting, bringing you along moment by moment, with His most patient love. And you will begin to see the world around you like Jesus sees it—lost. Like sheep without a Shepherd, clouds without water, a world whose systems of government are failing, and a people with little hope.
And, curiously, a new facet begins to take shape in your Lenten journey, something unexpected, something outward. In seeing what Christ sees, the Holy Spirit begins to open doors for you to serve, to minister, to love, and show mercy. Jude puts it like this:
“… build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 1:20-23 NLT
- Build each other up—if the journey is difficult for you, dear one, it is doubly difficult for some of your brothers and sisters. Build them up, bring a good word, encourage their faith.
- Pray in the Holy Spirit—spend time in quiet worship, clear your mind of distraction and invite the Holy Spirit to intercede for you in a language that is beyond words, renewing your soul.
- Wait on the mercy of Christ— in stillness invite His living presence to fill your heart and fill the world .
- Show mercy to those with wavering faith—with the mind of Christ you will see those who are weak, wavering and about to give up the good fight. Show them mercy, bless them, pray for them, point them to Jesus.
- Rescue others from flames of judgment—there are many around you on destructive paths, tearing down the work that God had begun, with drugs and alcohol, bad choices, and association with evil doers—rescue them by the power of God, snatch them from the flames. They might think themselves too far gone, but they are not, Jesus loves them and can save them.
- Show mercy with great caution to those contaminated by sin—like a virus or terminal disease, there are sins that have the world blinded to consequence, and, because they are blinded, careful mercy is required to show the love of God without the impression of hate or judgement. The murder of the unborn and confused sexual identities are just a couple of these contaminants for which careful mercy is required to express God’s love for the person and disdain for the sin.
In these ways we will keep ourselves in the love of God through the journey, serving others as our hearts are prepared for Christ’s passion:
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. Jude 1:24 NLT
The end of the journey is here, the presence of God with joy and without a single fault. Only He is able to do that in us. And He will, just take that first step and walk, daily, in the footprints of Jesus.