Why Fast During Lent?

[for the Lenten season, here’s a good perspective from a past post by Jared Both]

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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 lives with his wonderful family in Hamilton ON and is currently doing intercultural ministry with the Collage Project.

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