When Fasting Chooses You
I’ve never really chosen to make a ritual of fasting for lent a regular part of my spiritual life and routine. Full disclosure, I grew up non-denom (non-denomination for those of you not familiar with church sarcasm!), just a guy in a church that actually split from a formal mainstream denomination, so my idea of the church calendar was pretty much baby Jesus at Christmas and then having to wait for my birthday which is around Easter…that was about it. I’ve just never chosen to observe Lent by fasting…but what if in this season, fasting for lent chooses me?
The concept of a liturgical Christian calendar was something of a new concept to me that began in my mid-twenties and the observation of Lent came even later. But what I came to slowly learn is Lent mirrors Jesus’ time of preparation of his ministry with 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert. So the basic concept is to open our hearts to God’s refining grace through prayer, confession and fasting as we anticipate Holy Week.
So Lent is often a time when people choose to FAST or refrain from something…as an act of surrender to our Heavenly Father… fast from certain foods, technology, activities, etc. Lent reminds us of our human condition…our sinful nature…BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, our need for a Savior…which is why Lent ends on Good Friday at the cross and then Easter Sunday! It’s a somber journey that brings us to Joy! Lent and even fasting, then, is meant to draw us…yet again…to the faithfulness of Jesus who always receives us as we are.
As I’m putting my thoughts into my computer, I’m faced with the fact that this past Sunday and very likely in the upcoming month, I will in this season of Lent fasting from Sunday morning services with my church community…the faithful Sunday attenders who gather to encourage each other, feed from God’s Word and present ourselves back to our Father as an offering of praise. But I’m not choosing to fast from meeting together…this chose me.
It chose me because I live in California where in March of 2020, I’ve been asked from my government as well as the Departments of Health that are all monitoring the recent COVID-19 outbreak around the world, that meeting together poses a threat of the spread of this virus to my community and those I care about. Suspending our Sunday services was not something I chose to fast from for Lent…this year, fasting for Lent chose me.
So I guess I’m faced with only a few choices. I can choose frustration, anger, fear and a pissy attitude (all things Jesus doesn’t call me to), or I can choose to lean into this new reality and see what God might have in store for me, my family and my church during this time of Lent.
For me, one leads to feeling trapped and isolated…the other leads to freedom and peace which brings me back to Christ.
We don’t always get a choice in every aspect of our lives. In fact, the older I get it seems more often than not, things often choose me. But how I choose to engage them seems to make all the difference. Hey, I didn’t choose to rescue a puppy last year either…I think that puppy chose me…but it’s been one of the best things that’s happened to our family in a long time!
Happy fasting, friends!