On Ash Wednesday, as I applied ashes to the foreheads of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I said: ”Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
This was based on Psalm 103:13:
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
I would like to offer to you the same suggestion that I made to those gathered for Ash Wednesday service. Embark on a fast during the 40 days of Lent. However, as you do so there are important things to remember.
Christian fasting is not:
1. A way to suffer for God
2. A spiritual practice that demonstrates how pious or devout you are
3. Righteousness (i.e. it doesn’t equal holiness or sanctification)
4. A way of trying really hard spiritually to get a response from God
5. The same thing as repenting of sin (we don’t “fast” from sin, we confess it, receive forgiveness, and turn from it)
6. An addiction treatment program (if you feel powerless to break a dependence, reach out for help!)
Instead, Christian fasting is intentionally withholding something we’d normally partake in (normally food) for the purpose of creating space in our lives to feast on the presence of Jesus directly.
Christian fasting is:
· Wisdom – it’s love and knowledge meeting together in a practice that avails us to God’s resources to meet our needs.
· Training – it’s the indirect effort that gives us access to something we can’t try or make happen on our own.
· Surrender – it’s voluntarily “making ourselves weak” so that we can know the strength and power of God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Simply put: fasting is a way to place ourselves in the way of grace by withdrawing our reliance on earthly things so that we can feast on God’s presence and power.
If you’ve never practiced fasting before, an easy way into the practice is to engage in a partial fast. A partial fast can involve food and drink, or certain habits. Here are some possibilities for a partial fast
· Fasting from foods associated with “feasting”: chocolate, desserts, coffee/caffeine, alcohol, etc.
· Fasting from media or entertainment: cell phone, TV, streaming video, radio, music, email, computers, video games, etc.
· Fasting from habits and comforts: shopping, looking in the mirror, makeup, elevators, parking in a spot close to the store, finding the shortest checkout line, reading online, following sports, etc.
However you decide to fast during Lent, approach it as an experiment in grace. The point is to create space in our souls to feast on the presence of Jesus in our midst. So celebrate the gospel as you fast, and look for God’s grace to meet you.