Lent, Fasting and Me

Nearly two months in to 2014 and this is my first post. I am very pleased to tell you that I have been busy reading my chronological Bible as I indicated my intention to do in my last post of 2013. I have read through Genesis, Job and Exodus along with John 1 (alongside Genesis 1) and a few Psalms spattered in here and there. So far its been great. I am very glad to discover this chronological reading of the Bible. It is the fresh perspective I needed to bring these readings to life, especially the tough “books of Law.” I start Leviticus tomorrow. Pray for me.

I have several ideas for blogs whirling around in my mind, alas I have not made time to write. I really enjoyed my “month of writing” last November and I thought it would spur me on to continue writing regularly. It didn’t. I haven’t. But I hope that is about to change.

Growing up Southern Baptist in West Tennessee, I never really knew much about observing Lent. I scarcely recall seeing anyone with ash on their forehead until I moved to Washington, DC. Ash Wednesday on Capitol Hill is probably a bigger day for St. Joseph’s than Christmas or Easter Sunday combined. My first Ash Wednesday on the Hill, I was so fascinated by all the people around me who, apparently, observed Lent. I actually felt I was in the minority because I didn’t have the cross of ash swiped across my brow. This naturally led to some investigating and educating on my part, to learn more about Ash Wednesday, Lent and what it all had to do with Easter.

In my investigating, I began to understand that many of my friends — particularly the non-Catholics/Episcopalians — observed Lent as a way to practice fasting and focus on eternal things leading up to Holy Week and Easter.  In my religious tradition, the teaching on fasting was as scarce as fasting itself. So over the last 10 or so years I have researched this important Christian discipline. I practiced it a few times surrounding my mission trips, but I suppose I am not supposed to tell you that since our fasting should be done in secret (Matthew 6:16-18).

Nonetheless, I have never practiced a fast longer than a day at most (sundown to sundown). I have wanted to. I have prayed about it. But I never did it. At one point I thought I should be “led” to fast, and while the Bible does not expressly command Christians to fast; I am not sure that we should wait on specific “leading” to do what appears to be a beneficial thing for all Christians to do. Fasting and prayer went hand-in-hand for Jesus, and if my goal, as his disciple, is to follow his ways, then perhaps I need to examine why I don’t already practice this spiritual discipline, rather than wonder “if” I should.

I recently read the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker. According to her website, “7” is the true story of how Jen took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In other words, she fasted for 7 months, each month fasting from a different area of excess including: media, stress, possessions, shopping, food, clothes, and waste. The book is a journal of her experiences with this fast.

Talk about a page-turner! I read “7” in about 2 days because I had to know how it ended 🙂 I now plan to go back and reread it slowly and deliberately, and discuss it with some women who are much wiser than me! However, in the process of reading “7” among other things God has been teaching me, I have decided to do a fast of my own.

Aligning with Lent, I will fast from social media until Easter Sunday. Social media meaning all of it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even this blog. At first I thought that eliminating social media from my life may actually enable me to actually do some writing! And I hope that is some of the “fruit” of this time, but as I prayed about it I am certain that God was saying, to really do this in a powerful way, I need to fast from all of it, including the blog. So if writing does come out of this fast, the posts will come after Easter.

Despite Matthew 6:16-18, I am telling you that I am fasting, largely because I don’t want folks to think I fell off the face of the earth. The fact that I would even write that is indicative of the necessity of this fast, as if the world would even notice my voice removed from the online conversation.

Social media is amazing and wonderful and its the standard for how we share information. I am not hating on it and I am not leaving it forever. I am fasting from it because I want to take some time to focus on the most important relationship I have: my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And when I return to social media, my prayer is that I will return with clear boundaries in place to ensure that I do not allow this to become a dominate force in my life. If we are honest, I think that we can all relate to times when Facebook takes over our life. It sounds pathetic, but its true and its a temptation that all of us will face if we haven’t already.

I know this is not an original concept. I am one in a very long line of many who have taken a social media “break” so I know I am in good company here. But for me, I am at a point where I want to go deeper in my walk with the Lord. Reading “7” really challenged me. I may even consider following her example and fasting from other areas of excess in the coming months. But to start, I knew without a doubt that my BIGGEST area of excess is social media. I recently had this thought, that one day when I stand before the Lord, he may look at me and say, “Really AnnieLaurie? Really?? You spent THAT MUCH TIME on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc etc etc” at the expense of other things that have much more value — especially “in real life” relationships and experiences.

So we will see how this fast goes. As I said, I begin the fast with Lent on Wednesday, March 5 and will continue through Easter Sunday. I really really hope that this time of quieting my mind from all the noise results in many new blog entries. But my primary focus during this fast will be on enriching my relationship with the Lord, and if that includes writing than I will be a very happy girl!

Have any of you fasted like this? Any tips for a beginner? 🙂 Let me know!

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