It’s time for SPRING CLEANING!
Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason, and others have utterly disregarded it. – John Wesley
The season of Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wed. and Easter Sunday. Just as we anticipate spring in the lengthening of these days, so the spiritual journey of Lent leads us from darkness back into light, back into right relationship with God.
Fasting is the traditional spiritual discipline practiced during Lent, but it is definitely out-of-style in our modern church. Why this total disregard of a spiritual discipline practiced by so many people in scripture? (Moses, David, Samuel, Nehemiah, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna, Paul, Jesus and the disciples, to name a few.) All major religions practice the discipline of fasting and it was considered essential to the Christian faith until the last century. Now we live in a culture that claims we can have (and deserve) it all! Thankfully, in our culture of abundance and excess, we are slowly recovering the practice.
WHY DO WE FAST?
Fasting helps us to remember our dependence on God. A life that knows no limits cannot recognize the need for God. Fasting teaches us to accept life-restoring limits. Richard Foster wrote that “our human cravings and desires are like a river that tends to overflow its banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channel.”
HOW DO WE FAST?
Lent is a time for renewal, for returning to God as the center and source of all life. It involves an interior “spring cleaning” to identify addictions, sin, distractions, and bad habits that separate us from God. When what we consume is consuming us, when what we possess is possessing us, the only way back to health and balance is to refrain from using those things that have control over us.
Giving up certain foods for Lent is traditional, but God may show you other good things that have subtly taken control in your life and created bondage instead of freedom.
Do you compulsively check your phone, Facebook, or emails? Do you plan your life around a TV show or sport event? Consider turning off your devices one day/week or for a set-aside time each day.
Consider giving, serving, or praying in secret. Practice being anonymous.
On a retreat, someone announced that she would give up catalogues. She confessed to compulsively reading them, purchasing things she didn’t need, spending money she didn’t have, and creating tension in her marriage. Six weeks of no catalogues created time and money and peace that she didn’t even realize she was missing!
Often we need to let go (overpacked schedules) to take on a new discipline (Sabbath.) After practicing Sabbath for 6 Sundays, I discovered a new way to live and have continued to keep Sabbath ever since.
Do you give someone the power to redeem or destroy you, perhaps seeking approval from your parent/boss/child?
St. Augustine said that God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them – and not only our hands, but also or hearts, minds, and attention are clogged with addiction. Lent is a season for us to “unclog,” to free up the spaces where life-giving grace might flow.
How can you tell what God is inviting you to give up and/or take on during Lent? It’s easy! What creates anxiety when you consider giving it up? When you feel the tug of “anything but _____,” that’s it!
“We trivialize spiritual disciplines when we lose sight of their real purpose. Lent is not a six-week inconvenience in an otherwise abundant year, during which we somehow please God with voluntary, if minor, suffering. Lent is not a testing ground for the true grit of our will power. It is certainly not a “spiritual” rationale for losing ten pounds before venturing to the beach in a bathing suit.
Do you see how easy it is to twist a practice like fasting into a means to accomplish our own ends? The question we need to ask with any spiritual discipline is, What does GOD want to accomplish in me through this practice?” (Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast)
It is said that the delight of a feast is directly proportional to the deprivation of a fast. Do you remember your family’s Thanksgiving meal when you had to wait in anticipation all day, smelling the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, growing hungrier by the hour…. and how delicious it was when the family finally gathered around the table?
Don’t just show up Easter morning. Take time to listen. How is God inviting you to spend the next 40 days?