So today is the beginning of Lent. 40 days of fasting, to focus our minds on the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. 40 days as He spent 40 days in the Wilderness.
Fasting is biblical; we are encouraged to fast to fight against injustice and on behalf of those who are suffering. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” says Isaiah 58:6. Fasting strengthens prayer, it focuses minds, it encourages the spirit.
Fasting is also very fashionable with the 5:2 diet. Devotees fast 2 days out of every week in an effort to improve their health and to lose weight. In fact, during Biblical times, many Jews would fast two days out of every week, usually Monday and Thursday.
For most people, fasting involves giving up food. Early observers of Lent would only eat one meal a day. During the Middle Ages, believers would give up meat, eggs and dairy, leading to Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the first day of Lent. Nowadays, many people give up what they consider to be a bad habit – chocolate being a common one. However, fasting can also involve giving up other luxuries. I remember one friend who fasted perfume, as it was a real pleasure for her to wear expensive perfume. For her, that was a more significant sacrifice than food.
It would probably be good for me to give up food; biscuits would be an obvious choice. While part of me likes the idea of giving up dairy, eggs and meat, I know that I would find this a huge challenge. However, while I am still breastfeeding, I’ve decided not to limit myself too much – I am already avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
I am also focusing on certain aspects of my life each month: January was exercise, February is my marriage, and so on. So I didn’t want that to overlap too much.
So instead of fasting, I’ve decided to commit to reading two chapters of the Bible each day. That’s all – it won’t take me too long, but it will nourish me spiritually. I’ve started in Matthew, as it is a long time since I’ve read the Gospels.
Lent is a season of preparation, not of denial: it ends with the amazing celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. That is what we are preparing for. I want to use this time to get to know the word of God better.Rather than focusing on what I am missing, I want to focus on what I gain this year.