The old joke asks, ”Why did the chicken cross the road?” The punch line is so basic that a young child gets it. Everybody knows, even a chicken wants to go somewhere. The chicken has a plan and it has to travel, for that plan to come to fruition.
On this Ash Wednesday, our spiritual eyes turn to Lent, lasting from now until Holy Week in April. We think of Lent as an event – a string of weeks on the calendar. But have you ever thought of Lent as a journey that can take you across the road, to someplace new?
Put one foot in front of the other
When Food for the Hungry enters a community, the members often think about FH’s help in terms of a future event. They want a water system or a school. They look forward to the day when they can graduate from the program, throw a big party and dedicate a new health center.
What FH actually offers is a journey, not just events. It takes a lot of work for our local staff to introduce that idea. You might picture that we walk into a community on Day One and start building schools on Day Two.
FH staff walk with children and their families, helping them improve their communities
In actuality, it can be months or even years before FH breaks ground on any sort of brick-and-mortar project. Instead, FH staff “walk with” the community members for a time of reflection, planning and leadership training. We help community leaders see that it’s not just about bricks and buildings; we want to help them learn ways to solve any problem. That mean when future problems arise, long after FH leaves and the community graduates, they can solve issues without FH’s assistance. (Read about FH’s community transformation work.)
It can be hard work. It’s difficult for people who live thinking only about how they’re going to obtain their next meal, to go on a journey where the payoff is months or even years down the line. It takes daily reminders of God’s faithfulness, and of FH staff demonstrating faith and encouraging others to have faith, for the community to walk forward on the journey.
Changes in attitude
What FH really brings to communities, during our journey with leaders, parents and children, is a change in attitude, a change in the way they see life. The school or health post or new garden they wanted is important, of course. But what they walk away with is a new way of looking at problem-solving that will affect their lives long after the hoopla of the dedication event for a new building.
As you move into the Lenten season, which may start with the somber event of marking your forehead with ashes, consider how you can turn Lent from a mere event to a journey that brings lifelong change.
Are you simply punching a spiritual clock, with dutiful ashes and fasting and “giving up stuff for Lent?” Or do you have a God-ordained destination to start toward? Ask the Lord to show you where He wants you to go.
Is there someone you can accompany on a Lenten journey as an encourager? Maybe you can partnerwith a close friend or family member who wants to grow spiritually during Lent. Or pray for someone who is struggling – even if the person doesn’t know you’re praying for them.
How can you rearrange your Christian spiritual life during this special time, to take you somewhere you’ve not gone before? Try a different form of prayer. Read a book of the Bible you’ve never opened before.I sometimes do my Bible study in Spanish during Lent; because I’m not a native Spanish speaker, I have to read more carefully – and therefore I often see things in an entirely different way.
If you’re want to find ways to start your Lenten journey, FH can walk with you! Take a first step by downloading our free e-book, 40 Ways to Grow Closer to God.