Why Fast During Lent?

Fasting during Lent is an age-old Christian tradition that includes giving up something in our lives to make more room for God. Growing up in a Protestant church, fasting wasn’t something that we traditionally did as a church or as a family.  Fasting was of a Catholic tradition that had steeped its way over into our Protestant church. So when someone asked me “what are you giving up for Lent?” I responded with a smart alec remark like “I’m giving up giving up something for Lent” or something I didn’t really care about like “having daily showers” or “homework”, to get a laugh, all the time thinking that fasting was simply not something for me.

But then there was a part of me that wanted to prove to myself that things and habits didn’t have power over me. After all, Jesus sacrificed his entire life on my behalf. Surely I could sacrifice something that I loved in devotion to Him. So my Lenten fasts changed from things that I didn’t really like anyways (daily showers) to be small things that I could easily substitute for a similar alternative. Chocolate, for instance, could be easily substitute it for another sweet treat. I started with trivial things because the idea of giving up something I loved for 40 days (like video games) was not something I would even consider. 

But – what I quickly learned through fasting is that things DID have power over me. Even the smallest fast requires relying on God, which could only be held through prayer. I had to admit to myself that the thing I didn’t want to fast from (like video games) was the idol in my life that challenged my devotion to God. 

The first seriously challenging Lenten fast I remember making as a teenager was watching TV. This was difficult because most of family watched TV, therefore to fast, I would have to go into another room and doing another activity. Not watching TV for a month changed who I was. I played more guitar, I read more of the Bible, and I become more serious about my relationship with God. And although it was hard, I found that after the month the spell that TV had over my life was broken. I didn’t base my life anymore on watching the next Survivor or Simpson episode and I began to focus on other things.

10 years of Lenten fasts, God helped me remove my idols of video games, social networks (Facebook), and all kinds of food and drink: meat, sugar, coffee, alcohol, including one year where I ate nothing but rice and beans. In addition, during Lent I have begun practices of journaling, daily devotions, bicycling, and monastic prayers. Every year at Lent I pray and ask God to transform me to be more like Jesus, ready to sacrifice my life to do God’s will. With my idols removed I become more free.

What is God asking you to fast from this Lent? 

For me this year, video games needs to go again.

Jared Both is a pastoral intern at Hillside Church in London, ON . You can check out his writings at http://youthhillside.wordpress.com

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