Updated: May 5
Do you know what Lent is? I'll be honest I had no idea. I had to look it up.
Google defines Lent as a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. If you are following Christian entities on social media, or if you just keep up with Calendar events in general, you probably know that Lent has begun this past Wednesday (February 26) and it will end on April 9 this year. Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
Quite frankly, I could care less about Lent and I am not writing this post to talk about it or tell you to partake in it. That being said as I learned about Lent I started to think about a specific activity that I hadn't partaken in for quite some time- fasting. I'll be very honest with you, fasting has always been pretty meaningless to me. In the past I have "fasted" from social media, watching TV, or listening to secular music. I've never had the option to actually fast from food, as I struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and am in desperate need of every calorie I take in.
I've always liked the idea of fasting. I even like the concept of this Lent stuff to an extent. I hear the stories of other church members who were so blessed and felt so connected from their fasting experience, and I envy them...but I have yet to experience my own success story by giving something up.
Today I was reading in Isaiah and I got to chapter 58. Ironically enough, in my Bible, the chapter is titled "True Fasting". In light of all my Lent pondering, this felt providential. What was God telling me to do? The verses I read were more powerful than I expected and too powerful not to share:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
This was a picture of fasting that had never been painted for me before. Instead of dwelling on how much we can give up, God simply asks us how much we can give. It isn't about our personal suffering at all... it is about remembering the suffering of others. It is about remembering the suffering that Jesus experienced on behalf of us. I'm not saying that giving up food or entertainment isn't a worthwhile decision once in a while. I think anything that we can do to draw closer to Jesus is a win, but we need to make sure we understand what we are trying to do.
Fasting isn't about showing off how selfless we can be or how long we can "hold out" on doing something we enjoy. Fasting also isn't an excuse to starve ourselves and then immediately take off to the nearest buffet when our fasting is concluded. Fasting is choosing to say, "Hey God, I'm here for you. I want to think about you more often. I want to serve you better." I think that is the kind of fasting we should all be doing this Easter season.
Here are so worthy causes you might want to consider getting involved with during your next fast: