It’s a day full of conversations with the best of intentions. Some are giving up soda, others coffee, still others are taking a break from social media. I’ve heard the words sacrifice and fast/fasting more today than in months leading up to Lent.
Honestly, Lent has always been a struggle for me. The “best” connections to a scriptural basis for this time period are, to say the least, lacking. Yet it’s a practice shared by so many and quite faithfully. It’s a practice that leads many of those on a meaningful spiritual journey and it’s not my intention to take anything away from that.
Let me be quite clear in this before I am judged and cast aside, sacrifice and fasting are absolutely biblical. I won’t bore you with references. As Christians, followers of Christ, disciples, whichever title you prefer, we are called to sacrifice for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ. That is not optional. It is not a “if/when you get around to it.” It isn’t even a “if the cause is right for you” or “if you agree or condone them.” Jesus did an awful lot for people right before encouraging them to live a sin-free life.
Sacrifice is intrinsic to our faith identity. So is fasting. But the conversations I have and hear this week are missing something. Most of them seem to come from the right place, but they have this great big hole in the middle.
Fasting is a vehicle for prayer, which makes it a discipline of more, not less. The focus is not on the thing given up. Yet the more we speak of the thing given up, the more we are thinking about the thing we’ve given up. The more we think about the thing given up, the less we’re actually fasting. Fasting isn’t even about self-denial, but self-discovery.
(Egads, Mr. Blogger, we certainly DO NOT fast for ourselves… we fast for GOD.)
Sorry, God does not need us to fast, we are invited us to fast. Understanding fasting as a need, or a required activity leads to unhealthy ritualization and/or a perspective where we value the act itself disproportionately to the purpose of fasting.
When we fast, God invites us to an act of intimacy, of growth. Through fasting, we recognize that there is more value, more depth, more growth, more possibility and more blessing through a recognizable and affordable elimination of something else.
We fast to give MORE space to the divine within us, not to make LESS of something we already do. If a habit, practice or behavior has become an idol or an addiction, we must address that as well, and separately.
God waits for us in the fast. It is an opportunity, not a demand. It is a channel of deeper connection between Creator and created. It’s a way for us to connect with Him and to see more fully His image within ourselves.
So continue your fast, by all means. Make efforts to make it about receiving from God, and not giving something up. Put your focus on the MORE, not the less. And always remember that fasting is prayer.