“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” — Deuteronomy 8:3 (NKJV)
As a Lutheran, I do observe Lent and I do choose to abstain from a food or behavior once a year for 40 days. Now, this isn’t a great accomplishment worthy of boasting. But I can say that I look forward to Lent every year and embrace this challenge as a divine opportunity. And regardless of whether you observe Lent, taking some time to challenge yourself in this manner may be a joyful time of spiritual growth. Yes, reader, I used the words “Lent “and “joy” in the same sentence.
Lent simulates Jesus’ journey into the desert for 40 days following his Baptism and preceding his three year ministry. Jesus took 40 days to fast and put himself in harm’s way of temptation. And, of course, the tempter did show up and his first temptation was to turn stone into bread. It was within this context that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “One does not live by bread alone.”
These words have a special meaning to me and, for those who have heard my story, I apologize. I write this for the benefit of others. I received a blessing and I want to share it, as blessings are meant to be.
Before I continue with my story, let me share something that will make my story make more sense. All my life I have struggled with food. I have had successes and failures but I am afraid my failures outweigh my successes. But the one thing my wife and I were able to do was instill in our children a healthier understanding of food. As a result, they have been spared of this particular “thorn in the side,” if you will.
I had a chance to spend my birthday with my son at Walt Disney World. We planned to divide our time between EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. I chose EPCOT because of the restaurants. We would choose a time and place to eat and the whole day would revolve around it. Food was the axis upon which the entire day would spin.
I asked my son “Where would you like to eat?”
He said, “Let’s stop by and get a couple of subs. We will eat one half for lunch and the other half between EPCOT and the Animal Kingdom.”
My first thought was: “What about my birthday meal?” My second thought was, “I have taught him well. Now it is time for ME to internalize the message.”
I said, “Sure, Nate, that sounds great.”
I discovered that Nate’s primary question was about rides and fast passes. Food was the last thing on his mind and the first thing on mine. But, today, I would honor his request. I did ask him if we could sit down for a cup of coffee and visit. He was happy with that idea and we did.
I share this story with you because that was probably one of the best times I ever had at Walt Disney World. I learned something from my son’s example. Yes, a parent can learn a lot from a child. And that is this most important lesson. The quality of a meal is not determined by what is on your plate but by the person who is sitting across the table.
Regardless of our faith tradition, we all hunger and thirst for something in our lives that simply cannot be satisfied by food. Some of us are still learning that lesson the hard way. I have found Lent as the perfect opportunity to find out what that “something” is. And when I do find that something, it may not satisfy my stomach but it will satisfy my soul.
It is my prayer that we all take the spiritual journey that leads us to that something that satisfies our soul. And when we find it, we will discover that we are not fasting from food but feasting on that something that satisfies the soul.
Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.