Emptiness.  I’ve come to the conclusion that we do not like it.  In fact, I think we fear it and have made it such a negative word in our culture that we avoid it at all costs.  We are compulsive about emptiness.  We fill up our gas tanks before they hit that “E” on the gauge; we fill up our refrigerators while there is still a good amount of food in them; we fill up our houses with more and more stuff and we we fill up our inner worlds with music, images and busyness.

Perhaps the keeping of Lent is difficult because the Lenten journey is a journey into emptiness.  It is not for the faint of heart or for those who just want to give up chocolate.  But for those of us on the journey, we may be surprised what we find when we get there.

We start off like the crowd of people from John 6.  An amazing event has taken place.  God has taken a sliver of food – five loaves and two fish – and has exponentially grown it to feed the multitude.  They stood in the midst of a “real, live” miracle and yet their focus is on their stomachs – their sense of satiety and fullness.  They can lean back while patting their protruding bellies and licking their lips and say “Ahh…it’s good to be stuffed!”

Many of us start this season in this frame of mind.  We are not so far from Christmas that we don’t retain a residue of the pleasure and excitement of that season.  During Epiphany, our work has perhaps brought us satisfaction.  Maybe we’ve just enjoyed a full calendar or even spiritual pleasures or experiences given to us from the Lord.  We are fed and we are full – and really there is nothing wrong with that except that we want (and expect) more.

So, becoming one of the crowd again, we find ourselves searching for Jesus (Jn. 6).  Finding Him across the lake, we scratch our heads wondering how He got there and He levels us and exposes our hearts in one simple statement.  “You are seeking Me because you want My solution to the problem of your hunger.  You want your belly full; you want the experience again.  But you don’t want Me.”

Is this the beginning of the Lenten journey?  With a heart revealed, a mouth gaping wide and an appetite screaming MORE, MORE, MORE?  We find at times our strongest desires wanting  God’s solutions, God’s answers and God’s stuff but not God Himself.  This is the reality of my heart.  Perhaps it is the reality of humanity too.

So like the crowd (again from John 6), I find myself arguing/”discussing manipulatively”/whining with Jesus.  “But Jesus, You did it before.  You filled my belly before, now do it again.”  And Jesus’ answer both shocks and frees me.  “I am more interested in your heart than your belly.  I’m not giving you food.  Embrace the emptiness.  What I give you is Myself.  I AM THE BREAD.  You are used to being filled with certain foods.  Now, I want to change your palate and your appetite.”

And that change is the journey of Lent.

Lord, as I journey into emptiness, help me to embrace it.  Enable me, by Your Spirit, to curb my appetite for Your solutions, answers, stuff or experiences and change my craving to want You.  Reveal to me, though my stomach growls, what it means that You are the Bread of Life.