March 1, 2021

by: Pastor Jonna Bohigian

Fasting and Reorientation
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity. -Joel 2:12 – 13

As Americans, we have been conditioned to believe that we ought to pursue the bigger, the faster, the most popular, the path of least resistance, and that which brings immediate happiness. It is difficult to swim upstream, to pursue the smaller, the slower, the less popular, and that which does not immediately satisfy. Yet there is something deep within us which recognizes that that which is truly worth pursuing is the current which flows upstream. We know it, deep within our bones. Yet it so difficult to choose, so we appreciate corporate seasons of fasting, like Lent, to reorient ourselves to God’s purposes.

There is one thing that must be clear before we go any further. The purpose of fasting is not to get something from God. During Lent, we follow the way of Jesus, as he fasted for forty days in the wilderness. And like Jesus, our purpose in fasting is not so that God might do something for us. Our fasting is so that we might distinguish more clearly the voice of God from the voices of our flesh and the devil. In other words, our fasting is to reorient ourselves to the voice of God. (This is why fasting is at times incorporated during times of discernment.)

As we have entered this season of Lent, I am immediately struck by a few things. First, I am unable to fast from food, because there is a little one inside me, depending on me to eat. Second, and somewhat humorously, when people ask my husband what he will give up for Lent, his reply is, “Sleep!” Third, and most profoundly, I have begun a fast which I have sincerely resisted – a fast from hubris. 

I take pride in my public vocation as pastor, and have internally struggled to place that as subordinate to my primary vocation as wife and soon, mother. It is difficult to think of stepping away from my pastoral role for a couple of months, not to be a part of decision-making and charting the course for St. Timothy’s. After maternity leave has concluded, I will return to pastoring at St. Tim’s, but it will look differently. How? I don’t yet know. 

As I have already passed off the majority of my responsibilities in anticipation of maternity leave, a small voice has continued to repeat itself, that this reorientation in me is important, that accomplishing tasks is not the most important, and that the most important work of the church is the hidden work of prayer.

Blessing: Whatever the calling of God in your life this Lenten season, may it bear fruit and reorient you to the One who is faithful, reflecting the light of Jesus to all who see you.

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