But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
That would then make me a hypocrite for telling you today I am fasting. I don't bring it up as a way to bring attention to what I'm doing. But to keep a personal journal of why and how I am feeling, and perhaps bring a little enlightenment to the ritual of fasting.
Have you chosen a fast for Lent? What do you mean you haven't? Isn't that what you are supposed to do on Ash Wednesday? Don't you want to give up chocolate, or sweets or TV? Oh, ok, so you have given something up...well let me ask, Why? Why do we choose to fast?
The Lenten season is a commemorative time where we observe the 40 days Jesus fast in the desert before beginning his public ministry. The time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is a sober time where we reflect on the precious gift of Jesus as penance for our sins. Therefore, many people choose a fast to help them to remember to pray and seek God even more during this time.
Like so many other things, we have watered down basic Christian traditions. I am afraid that Lent has become an opportunity for folks to exert control over their lives rather than allow God to be in control. I am so weary of fasting, especially in a food sense because of my relationship with food. All too often I want to exert control and so I choose to restrict food and strictly speaking, a Christian or faith-based fast should be quite the opposite. When you feel hungry it should be a reminder to kneel in prayer, and a reminder that God is in control.
When I feel urged to fast I am so careful about where the urge comes from. Am I wanting to eliminate sweets so I can fit into a swim suit in 40 days for spring break, or is it because God is calling me to a deeper relationship with Christ? Side-bar...it is ok to give up sweets and any other dietary choices to be a better, healthier version of yourself. You can even do it in the name of God because He desires that our earthly bodies be a temple in which to serve Him. I am concerned, however, for the multitude of people who choose a fast for Lent without any knowledge of what it means.
I was there. I did it too. Four years ago I sat down with my Bible study group and proclaimed that I was giving up sweets. I am thankful that I have close friends who are willing to speak the truth in love and remind me of the purpose of Lent and fasting. As well as the purpose of allowing it to be between God and me and not proclaiming it to the world as if I were bragging about the control I could exert for myself.
It isn't often that I am so bold to announce something I believe to be so wrong, and like my friends who lovingly brought attention to my misstep, I hope that my dialogue here can be seen as truth in love. I bring it to light because I too felt the urge last night to choose a fast for Lent and found myself wishing away sweets or wine to please my worldly nature. I was stopped in my tracks and led to a fast that allows God to be in control. I chose my fast because I knew A. it would be difficult and therefore I could not achieve it on my own free will and B. I personally needed a time of clarity and meditation with my Savior over the course of my future. It just so happened to collide with a day that so many others are also choosing to fast.
If you have been led to fast because of an American tradition and perhaps feel that it is not for the right reasons or out of the right intentions try one of these as a fast for the next 40 days:
Attend church regularly
Pray once a day
Volunteer some of your time each week to a local mission
If you want to go on a diet, then go on a diet, but if you want to glorify God then choose a true fast.
Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?