Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Ok, we're well into the Lenten fast, the traditional 40 day "fast" Christians participate in prior to Easter.
A few little facts:  it's 6 weeks, plus 4 days, starting on Ash Wednesday.  That's more than 40 days, you say?  Why, you're exactly correct, my mathematically endowed fellow!  6 * 7 is 42, plus 4 days is 46.  But Sundays are days of grace, so knock 6 days back off that tally and you have 40.
So, what's this fasting business all about?

Well, fasting is an interesting little creature.  It can be a lot of different thing to a lot of different people, including, but not limited to, not eating or drinking anything.  We humans tend to die when we don't eat or drink stuff.  That's kind of how it goes.  So a 40 day Lenten fast without eating or drinking anything will, short of a miracle, kill you.  

Probably even if you do take those days of grace and stuff yourself stupid.

But that's not to say that a fast cannot be a period of self denial, introspection, and reliance on God rather than some crass material thing such as food and water.

Or an ATM card.

Or a car.

Or a pair of shoes.

Or the act of verbal communication.

Now, of course, the simple ACT of sacrifice isn't really the point.  Anybody can not do something for a period of time and not think much of it (unless, obviously, there's a medical or psychological condition involved).  Simply stashing a credit card or ATM card in the back of the freezer isn't necessarily a "fast", in the most appropriate sense of the word.  And every single one of us has had to "hold it" for just another few minutes while we found an exit with an acceptably clean bathroom.  That's not a "fast", either.

The key to the thing isn't sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.  Or for the sake of losing weight.  Or for the sake of saving money.  Or for the sake of admiration from your peers.

The key to the thing is the spiritual posture that it invites.

A fast isn't just not doing something for a period to prove that you have the internal strength to deny yourself.  Anybody can do that.  It's about replacing the craving for the crass and present and replacing it with a craving for the perfect and eternal.  "God, I want a hamburger" is not merely an exclamation of desire for a yummy, juicy, delicious patty of properly cooked ground beef on a wonderfully deliciously toasted bun, topped with a couple of slices of bacon and cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, and barbeque sauce.  It's a humble prayer telling God, point blank, that I WANT A HAMBURGER!!  And then, sitting quietly and actually taking the time to listen to what He has to say about that, and giving Him the opportunity to fill that want.  To truly live "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want", even for just a brief expanse of time.

Because it's not just denial just for the sake of denial.  God isn't about "don't".  God is about a better option.  God is about turning away from the bad, or unrewarding, or unfulfilling and replacing it with something good, rewarding, and ultimately, truly, foundationally, and profoundly fulfilling.