The Lenten season is a symbolic journey toward the Cross. For many today, that journey has become an opportunity to let go of certain foods, activities, or habits that distract us along the path. For others, it is a time to cling to disciplines that give life and draw us closer to our God. You may have given up chocolate or let go of your grasp on Facebook, yet this invitation is much more than cocoa or status updates (both of which I cling to often). No matter your plans for Lent, I invite you to consider this a season of receiving God’s healing and wholeness offered us through the gift of his son, Jesus.
For over a decade of my young adult years, I was plagued with chronic health problems. During an appointment one day, a practitioner asked me a profound (and what I honestly thought at the time to be rude) question. She asked, “Whitney, do you believe you can be well?” My response was silence. She shocked me and I couldn't believe she would ask me such a blunt and obvious question. Of course, I wanted to be well; I had taken the time to make an appointment to prioritize my health! My efforts proved I was working hard at it by investing time, energy, and plenty of resources.
But guess what? After my initial shock wore off, I realized I wanted to be well but didn’t believe I could be. It did not seem possible that I could live a life free from the pain that plagued me. And suddenly, as that truth sank in, I began to believe I could be well in a much broader sense than she could have understood. Her words slowly and steadily seeped into my soul.
Since that question, I have changed my thinking. I don’t believe I will always be physically well on this earth, but I will always be whole in Christ. There is nothing wrong with seeking guidance for health and wellness from wise practitioners (as a matter of fact, I recommend it), yet we can only seek true healing and wholeness within from our God. My practitioner knew this fact and planted that seed in my heart.
What is wholeness?
In order to live whole lives, we need to put to death thoughts that are not life giving. When putting to death old ways and embracing life-giving alternatives, my biggest barrier is often myself. Scripture tells us, “in Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10, NASB). Did you catch that? God has already completed us. He has made us whole. It is not about stripping away; it’s about receiving that promise. That is what we are moving toward this Easter season—wholeness. And we must believe it is possible.
What’s your story? Do you long to be whole? Do you believe it is even possible? No matter your story, God is offering you healing and wholeness this season.
While there is no one answer for each of us regarding what wholeness looks like, there is one response: say yes. Yes, I want to be made whole. And trust me, you can say yes before you understand how it may even be possible. What are you afraid of? What might happen if you let go of the old patterns of unbelief this Lenten season and embrace God’s promise of wholeness?
How can I embrace God’s wholeness?
Read the following Scripture, slowly, three times. Ask yourself if there are any words or phrases that stand out to you as you read. You may even choose to read aloud or listen to an audio version of this passage. However you listen, truly hear the words Jesus spoke, as if they are spoken aloud to you today:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:1–9, NIV)
Do you want to be made whole?
Do you believe you have already been made whole through Jesus’ gift to you? Do you believe you can be well? How many years have you been sitting at the pool’s edge of healing waters? Are you just sticking your toes in the water? Who or what are you waiting for? Grab your mat and walk toward Jesus this Easter season.
Giving something up is thematic for many people across Christian tradition during the Lenten season. Yet for me, giving up has been less of my focus over the years. Traditionally, I have been more likely to add a spiritual practice during the season of Lent rather than take something away. And I now realize how much I have added over the years and how "doing it all" often blurs my ability to open my heart and soul. Let's be honest, fasting is hard.
Yet sometimes we need to strip away, let go, fast. Recently I have been in a season of "letting go" in regards to my sugar addiction. I now have a new perspective on giving up and am embracing it in the kitchen. I've been on a whole foods (Whole30) plan for the past several weeks that has stripped away many of the unnecessary extras that cause my body to experience brain fog, fatigue, and anxiety. It has taken several weeks to see the fruits of my work but my body (and my soul) are thanking me for the new found clarity. And I must admit, it has taken me two rounds of this process to truly find the beauty in the letting go of my beloved sugar for a season!
I read the poem below this morning and in my reflection realized quickly that as I've let go of the extra sweeteners and not-so-natural flavorings (as well as the junk I had been feeding my body) my tastebuds can truly experience the flavor of food in new ways. We chew, we eat, we swallow. But, do we take the time to truly savor and taste? If we did, how could that change us? When we fast (not simply from food) we are invited to taste/feel/experience more deeply.
The poem is from St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican nun, mystic and poet from Italy, who lived from 1347-1380. Her words speak to me on this journey of wellness, they remind me that God gave us the gift of food as more than nourishment, that we can see God in all things/people/situations, that our hearts and souls really do need to be fed. I hope her words offer your heart encouragement as well this Lenten season.
How will you feed your soul this season? How could "giving up" actually give your heart more strength? Are you letting go of any specific foods or activities for Lent? How are you hoping to taste, smell, experience God?
Give the Heart More Strength
(from Love Poems from God)
Herbs can help the body and give
the heart more strength
When my sight became clearer,
I could see auras around different foods.
and I now know — should I say this? --
that everything can sing.
The songs of fruits and grains will calm,
why not put them into yourself,
a new language you
And just from touching life’s requirements
close to their source
will add grace to your
More generous eyes we need.
The songs of light
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, unless otherwise indicated.
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