No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. [Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)]
As I continued my Lenten fasting, Saturday’s fast was criticism. “A piece of cake,” I thought as I began the day. While criticism can be constructive, it usually is little more than complaint and, as it turned out, I’d blown it by 10:00 AM. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I caught myself being critical. Even though Sundays during Lent are a day free of fasting, I tried going without criticism again Sunday morning. Surely a day without any critical judgment shouldn’t be that hard! I hate to admit, I botched it by 8:00 while watching the news! Granted, I’d already made three hours without complaint but that wasn’t my last criticism of the day. Not every comment was verbalized but whether I said it to myself or to someone else, criticism still is criticism. I continued fasting from criticism yesterday and this fast may turn out to be a year’s work!
Another day’s fast was discontentment—the feeling of not-enough—the feeling that keeps us from being grateful for all that we do have. Like some of my other fasts, I thought this one would be a breeze until I received an on-line ad for a sale at one of my favorite stores. In spite of an over-full closet, I felt discontent creep into my heart as I scrolled through pages of beautiful clothes. I know I have more than enough and yet I still wanted something more! There’s another one to work on for the rest of the year!
Yesterday’s assignment was to fast “God-as-job.” Just because we don’t receive a paycheck to serve the Lord doesn’t mean we can’t slip into thinking of our service as a job rather than a calling or thinking of our prayer and Bible study as a task or duty rather than a blessing. Our relationship with God is no more a job that the relationship we have with our loved ones. Nevertheless, when concentrating on doing for Him, we easily forget about being with Him and, when working for Him, we often stop hearing Him. When God is a job, we’re present in body but absent in spirit.
These weeks preparing for Resurrection Sunday brought me a growing awareness of my spiritual weaknesses. Rather than giving up something I enjoy like chocolate, alcohol, or TV, this fast was about revealing the kinds of things that restrain or control me. Moreover, there were hidden blessings in each sacrifice I made. These last several weeks have been a time of decluttering my mind, sweeping the dust bunnies from my soul, and regaining balance. Of course, I remain a work in progress but, like the author of Hebrews, I’m trying to rid myself of the things that weigh me down.
Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.” [Catherine Doherty]