Praying can be hard, but I keep persisting. Worship does not always come naturally, yet I know the joy that comes when I break through my reluctance. But when we talk about Fasting, I am ready to show everyone a note from my Mum to say I’m excused. Why do I count myself out of this spiritual discipline when I am ready to embrace the others? It could be to do with my adolescent eating disorder. It could be that I’m worried about losing weight, and feel that it wouldn’t be good for me. In the past I automatically excluded myself due to pregnancy or breastfeeding. I’ve been thinking about what I can’t do, not what I can. I’ve been thinking about what I could lose, not what I could gain; about sacrifice instead of substitution. Because of course that’s what the cross is all about- substitution. There was sacrifice, but it was His, not mine. His death for my life, his pain for my joy. So what does that mean when we think about fasting? What is on the other side of the coin of our small sacrifice?
Every year my children come home from their C of E school having heard the annual assembly about Lent. These kids who I am constantly telling ‘No, you can’t have another cake; have some fruit if you’re still hungry,’ all of a sudden are saying “I am giving up sugar for Lent”.
“Oh really, why’s that?” I ask. But they are not clear on that bit. They have got the impression that fasting for Lent is about healthy eating, about improving your body. When in fact its about denying our body for the sake of our soul and spirit. Did Jesus give up food in the desert to get in shape and live more healthily? No, he allowed his body to go without what it needed, knowing that the needs of his spirit were far greater.
So what can I do with this insight? When I think about how I can fast, I need to think about making space for Jesus in a way that I don’t normally. That could be food, but in a way that is sensible and appropriate to my body and my lifestyle. The idea we have settled on for this week’s challenge is to sacrifice our evening coffee and chocolate, a regular habit on any evening in. Our intention is to substitute the time we usually spend preparing these with a few minutes of prayer before settling down in front of the telly. I think this is achievable but it will still be a challenge- I will really miss those treats at the end of the day, but I’m trusting that I will find something better in making that substitution.
On the topic of Lent, I’ve been wondering how to engage with this period of expectation as a family, in a way that puts the focus on Jesus and looking beyond our own needs. There are some excellent suggestions on this website that I came across with ideas for family prayers and crafts focussing on thankfulness, caring for others and gaining a better understanding of the Easter story. I’m not sure yet if we are going to give anything in particular up as a family, but I hope we can make some time to have a go at a few of these ideas at least. I past years I have found a Lent-themed Bible study guide a helpful accompaniment over the 40 days.
I hope this encourages you and gives you some ideas as you consider how to join in with our corporate fasting challenge and how you can use the traditional Lent period to deepen your connection with Jesus personally and as a family.
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