I grew up in the church.
So, I have always practiced Lent.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the night before Easter Sunday) and is 40 weekdays long. It is symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, following his baptism.
For me, I have always given up something that is tempting for me, such as chocolate. Or sugar.
Pretty much always chocolate or sugar.
I had always made the assumption that I should be giving up something that tempts the flesh.
It never even occurred to me that there might be other “temptations” out there that were perhaps creating a much bigger gap between me and my Heavenly Father, such as gossip and judgment or not caring about the world’s most vulnerable.
Although, I was never one to outwardly boast that I was indeed fasting for Lent, the inward battle was ON. I was so proud of myself in the struggle against chocolate.
Every day’s victory made me feel more holy, closer to Jesus, a martyr in His blessed name.
And it gets worse.
I used Lent as a weight loss program.
Oh, yes I did.
Because, you know, it takes about 40 days to form a habit and I believed with all my HEART that God flat out designed it that way. You see, if I chose to give up something for Lent, then by the time the 40 days were over, I just KNEW that I would no longer even desire that thing (chocolate) which I so painstakingly relinquished in the name of Jesus.
And it gets worse.
I even checked the scale during Lent to see if God blessed me by taking off a couple of pounds.
Oh, yes I did.
This year, the year I have claimed as the year of “self-care”, I decided to go about Lent completely differently. I decided that what I would “deprive” myself of this time would be
Oh, yes I did.
And you know what?
It is a much, much more difficult discipline than depriving myself of chocolate.
Instead of feeling victorious at the end of the day, I have had to go back and reflect on the times throughout the day when I was not kind to myself and to turn my eyes upward and to ask
for more grace, more mercy
instead of demanding a heavenly high five as I have so often in the past.
This morning, I participated in a Lenten Silent Retreat, or Time Out, as they are appropriately named.
It was led by my mom who is the most gifted person I know at leading these.
What I learned today has completely changed the Lenten experience for me, and I hope that if any of the above resonated with how you experience Lent, it will change the experience for you as well.
Because, quite frankly, we have been doing it all wrong.
And as such, we have completely missed the character of God in the process.
What would happen if I entered into the Lenten Season asking God what it is that is in my life that stands in the way of my ability to receive all that God has for me?
At this present moment, what is it that I long to receive from God?
And what is it that is keeping me from receiving that longing from God?
Perhaps THAT is the very thing I need to “fast from” during these 40 days?
Let me break that down for you and use my life as an example.
I got something right this year even though I had no idea WHY.
Right now, for me, I need to know from God that I am acceptable to God “as is” – that I do not need a title behind my name, I do not need to be the Founder or CEO of anything, I do not need to be Social Activist of the Year to be loved, accepted, cherished, or content.
And what is standing in my way of being acceptable to God “as is”?
I am in the way.
Or, more specifically, my self-talk is in the way.
I love how my mom put it::
“Fasting is less about deprivation and more about creating space to pay attention to God.
God says to each of us, “It isn’t giving something up just to give it up, (Carrie) – I want to give you something BETTER.”
– Patti Pierce
Fasting comes before the Feast – the Feast is the place where we commune with God and share in all the goodness He so desperately wants to give to us.
Why is that so hard for us to believe?
Well, it is because we have believed the lie that Lent is a Weight Loss Program.
Let’s release that, shall we?
FROM FASTING TO FEASTING
Fast from judging others; feast on seeing the best in people.
Fast from despair, feast on hope.
Fast from thought of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from biting words; feast on encouraging others.
Fast from discontent and taken-for-granted; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from hostility; feast on peacemaking.
Fast from looking for differences; feast on what we have in common.
Fast from resentment and grudges; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from excessive activity; feast on moments of reflection.
Fast from disrespect; feast on recognizing the sacred in all life.
Fast from selfishness; feast on serving others.
Fast from severity;
feast on compassion.
And my favorite scripture on the connection between fasting and the world’s vulnerable::
” This is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound UNJUSTLY, untying the cords of the yoke,
SETTING FREE the oppressed, breaking every yoke,
SHARING your bread with the hungry,
SHELTERING the oppressed and the homeless,
CLOTHING the naked when you see them,
and NOT TURNING YOUR BACK ON YOUR OWN.”
– Isaiah 58:6-9 (emphasis mine).
** To learn more about what my mom does with Wellspring and SoulCARE for pastors, go here:: www.wellspringca.org **