Have you ever craved something? For some of us this is diet coke or chocolate… for others it is physical affection… for even others it is wealth and success… for many of us it is a sense of belonging. We all crave something in our lives. Most days we succumb to our cravings without consciously thinking about what we are using to satisfy them. We just give in.
But what happens when we attempt to fill our cravings with things that aren't good for us? No one likes the feeling of being hungry for anything. We try to quench our craving in any way that we can. We eat the extra dessert when we're sad, we call the unhealthy person when we feel lonely, or we buy material things to try to look successful. We crave things for a reason. It usually represents something deeper our souls are yearning for.
Aren't we all longing for something more? A deep stirring in our souls. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, an important marker in the Christian calendar. It is the beginning of Lent, a forty day (plus Sundays!) period of introspection and self-reflection leading up to Easter. If you’re anything like me, a set-aside forty days of self-examination sounds painful and full of seeing my weaknesses a little too clearly. My cravings quickly become apparent -- as well as the empty things I'm using to fill them.
If you’re not familiar with an Ash Wednesday Service, towards the end of the service you receive a lovely smudge of ash in the form of a cross on your forehead. It’s messy and dirty. If you know me well, being messy and dirty is my least favorite thing in the whole world so it’s hard to believe I subject myself to this willingly. As the cross is made on your forehead, you will hear, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It serves as a reminder that our lives are a journey.
Our lives can feel like that -- smudged with the dirt of mistakes or shortcomings. Aren't we good enough at naming this already that we don't need a scarlet letter of sinfulness on our foreheads? Yes, it can feel that way sometimes. It's a visual reminder that we use so many false things to fulfill our cravings. But it's also a helpful prompt to be attentive of what we are truly craving and needing in our lives.
As we begin Lent this week, I invite you to join me in a season of actually satisfying our cravings. Not just with the easy, quick fixes around us but by intentionally tuning into spending time with God so that we are filled up. It takes honesty to name what we're truly longing for and doing the work to seek God to satisfy it.
So I ask you: what hunger do you need to quench as you receive your ashes this season? What renewal do you need to find? Seek it out with your whole heart. Take quiet time with God. Find a partner to journey together and ask honestly, “How is your soul?” Join me as I preach at Sandy Springs UMC at 7 pm this Wednesday night.
Over these next forty days, ask God, beg God, yearn for God to fulfill your cravings... for God can provide more satisfaction than we have ever dreamed.