This Lent, I'm learning to trust.
That wasn't the plan when Lent began, not exactly. I decided on a few daily changes to make, plus some new weekly routines, ways to commemorate Jesus' sacrifice on Fridays. I also decided to commit to some traditional fasting, abstaining from food, one day a week. All in all, nothing remarkable—just more engagement with the season than I've done in the past. I wanted to experience Lent more deeply this year.
Then I got the call: I'm leaving the church I've been serving in Natchez for the last five years and being reappointed to a congregation in Sumrall, MS.
Not surprisingly, this has been both exciting and heartbreaking. It's the first move for me, so this is all new, but I still knew there would be these mixed emotions, the bittersweet quality to it all.
What I didn't know was the trouble I'd have trusting.
It's not a question of whether I ought to go to Sumrall. I have absolutely no doubt that the bishop and the cabinet made the right choice in sending me to Natchez in the first place, and I trust them to listen to the Spirit and to recognize where God could use me next. Some more seasoned United Methodist ministers may chuckle, but I have faith in the process.
The trouble is entrusting this church to someone new.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have any reservations in the world about the pastor who is taking my place. She seems great.
... So, on second thought, maybe the trouble isn't entrusting the church to someone new.
Maybe the trouble is letting go of my sense of control and entrusting the church to God.
As I've been fasting each week during this Lenten season, I've frequently been reminded of Jesus' words to Satan in the wilderness, when he was tempted to break his fast and turn some dusty rocks into fresh loaves of bread. Jesus told the tempter, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4).
With those words echoing in my head over the last couple of weeks, I've started to see that, in my ministry, particularly as a preacher, I've been trying to "live by" relevant topics, solid research, clever analogies, appropriate injections of humor, and practical takeaways. I've been trying to live by hard work and skill.
But those things are bread.
And man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. A minister of all people cannot live by bread alone, but must live by the words that come from God and set an example and guide the church to do the same. After all, don't we believe that "neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth"? (1 Cor 3:7) Don't we trust in that?
Or would we rather hold on to our bread?
Fasting is supposed to teach us that, ultimately, we depend on God for our lives, not on anything else—even the food that we eat. Fasting is supposed to teach us that if we let go of the bread, everything will still be ok. Fasting's supposed to teach us to trust.
And now that I'm faced with the terrifying reality of actually trusting God with things that are beyond my control, I see how far I still have to go.
So I'm grateful for Lent. I'm grateful for the fast. Because right now, while I'm trying to learn to trust, I need to remember those words. I need Jesus to whisper to me again and again about living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.