About a year ago I joined the launch team for Alicia Britt Chole’s new book, “40 Days of Decrease.” Alicia is an author who is dear to my heart. God used her book, “Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours,” to speak to me of His love during a painful time of feeling forgotten.
I once had the privilege of hearing her speak at a women’s conference in Maine many years ago. At the time, I was struggling in my walk with God. I was weary with the weight of always “being fine” because to admit to anything less meant that I was denying God’s ability to keep me. Or so I thought.
I had come to this conference despite my distaste for Christian women’s conferences in general; they made me feel uncomfortable. After one or two days at a conference I would usually go home physically exhausted and emotionally and spiritually deflated.
My insecurities were triggered by the high energy and bright demeanors of the seemingly confident women who frequented these gatherings. It felt like junior high in the lunch room again. My feelings of failure in walking a victorious Christian life made the teachings seem like impossibly lofty goals.
I bounced between wishing I could just relax and enter in to what was going on and cynically deciding that everyone was a fake. Eventually the latter attitude became my justification for choosing to forgo these events in the future.
So why did I decide to go to this conference? I don’t remember. Maybe it was the fact that it was located in a particularly beautiful part of Maine, the mountains, that made me change my mind. Or perhaps it was an even more pressing desire to get away from the pressures of being mom for a few days. Whatever it was, it got me there… and to this day I’m grateful for it.
I don’t know what Alicia spoke about or what the purpose of the conference was. All I knew, after hearing her speak, was that this woman had something I wanted with every fiber of my being… a deep understanding of how much she was loved by God.
Her words, poured out with thoughtful grace, sank into my heart and watered a dry and thirsty wasteland that had once been an abundant garden of His love. I was shaken.
This memory came back to me as I reflected on yesterday’s reading from “40 Days of Decrease.” I had intended to read the book last year after joining Alicia’s launch team but never got around to it. The book is meant to be read as a part of Lent, a 40-day spiritual discipline leading up to Easter.
Lent is new to me. Although I have been a Christian for most of my life, observing Lent was never a part of my spiritual training. It’s probably just as well. Until recently, participating in fasts of any sort would have probably fed into my overwhelming sense of needing to prove myself worthy by doing.
So last year my part in helping to launch “40 Days of Decrease” was small. I ordered the book and shared blurbs about it on social media. I also joined the launch team in praying that the book would touch hearts and be a blessing to many. But as time passed I realized (with some guilt) that Lent had come and gone so I put the book away promising myself I’d read it next year.
Recently, I’ve sensed a longing in my heart for Jesus to increase my capacity to love Him. I also want to understand more fully how much He loves me. My heart is still shriveled, dry, and protected in so many ways and it keeps me from walking in the fullness of His love for me… His beloved.
But I don’t know how to get from here… to there. In the past this would have sent me into a frenzy of distraction (to make myself feel better) or works (to prove myself). But now things are different. I’ve been praying into this and waiting for Jesus to show me the way.
I think He’s answering me…
The tag line for “40 Days of Decrease” is “A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.” And that’s exactly what’s going on in my heart. I’m hungering for more of Jesus (increase) and desiring to fast the lies and sins that keep me from becoming Christlike (decrease).
Here’s a quote of a quote(!) from Day Two (pg. 9) that I highlighted:
“love of self for self’s sake, love of God for self’s sake, love of God for God’s sake, and love of self for God’s sake.” “On the Love of God” by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 -1153)
How much of my love of myself and God has been for my self’s sake? Way too much, I’m afraid. May Jesus continue to do what needs to be done in my heart to make my love of myself and God for His sake only… amen.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
You can buy “40 Days of Decrease – A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.” at Amazon.com. (I am including this link for your convenience only. I am not an affiliate and I will not receive any recompense from sales of the book.)