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Preparing to Fast

Fasting seems like such an extreme discipline, or is it just me?

Denying myself of food for periods of the day sounds unhealthy, headachy, and asking for snapping at those around me (it's not their fault I'm trying to practice self-denial!). I remember being 12 or so, and my family ate a broth soup for dinner as a form of family fasting. It was terrible. I remember complaining, I remember someone at church saying that wasn't true fasting, and we never repeated it. I remember fasting lunch during college once a week--but I can't say it deepened my spiritual walk. And then I remember my small group fasting for a day as an adult, and grown men complaining about their headache from low blood sugar (I might have rolled my eyes). All this to say, I am not certain how these fasting experiences shaped my spirituality, but I will say, 15-25 years later, they were markers of engaging in an ages-long discipline.

Fasting isn't some form of discipline to make us miserable (even though it can) but an opportunity to deny ourselves something essential and necessary for a short period of time to recognize how necessary our dependence comes from the Lord, and not "other things." It is a reminder that Jesus is our daily bread; it is a reminder to slow down, to listen, and to connect. Sometimes we need those hunger pains to tell us something we would not hear otherwise.

Fasting has evolved over the years, thanks to smartphones, increased rates of addiction, and more social media platforms than we can keep up with. Giving up "liking" posts and responding heatedly to posts is not a bad idea, nor is giving up sugar or wine or drive thru eating. Self denial is a practice we Americans sorely lack, and this pandemic has not helped in many regards (i.e. how many Netflix series can we blow through? Or bottles of wine at Trader Joe's can we sheepishly buy?). We could use some self-control, myself included. Our human tendency is to live for the "next thing," am I right?

This Lent, perhaps we can slow down the mental game of whatever is "next"--the next time we can open a can of beer, the next road trip we can book, the next electronic we can get on sale--and be present to the suffering of Christ. We can engage in his pain, his loss, his grief. In the same regard, as we self-deny, we could "add in" a practice; where we would have spent the time eating, or scrolling through social media, or spending money on excess, we can instead give gratitude, donate that money, pray, serve at the Free Market.

Fasting is uncomfortable, but good for shaping us into people who reflect Him more, better. Let's deny and engage together, and see where this invitation from the Lord takes us. Together.

For more ways to "add in" this season and participate together in spiritual practices, check out our groups and guide booklet here.

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