As we prepare ourselves for the beginning of Lent next week, I have been searching for new ways to connect with Jesus on His way to the cross this season. I am reminded of the power of fasting.
When thinking of Lent, we think about the one thing we are planning on “giving up” for those 40 days (with the exception of Sundays if you use it as your “cheat day”). Many people talk about giving up chocolate, or soda pop, junk food or desserts. It always seems to coincide with the idea of “getting healthy” which, to me, makes perfect sense. We want to get closer to the Lord, clear our lives of all the “junk” that pulls us away from loving Him. This includes getting rid of the “junk” we put into our bodies and turning ourselves once again into the “temple” it is truly meant to be.
Although refraining from a food item or behavior is a good way to remember Christ throughout the little daily inconveniences of the Lenten season, I was wondering if there is something more I could do. Is there more I could “give”? And then I was reminded of what Jesus did immediately after being baptized by John the Baptist and prior to beginning His ministry. He headed to the dessert. He spent 40 days alone, in prayer, fasting, preparing Himself for the physical and emotional toll His ministry (especially the end of it here on earth) would take on Him. And what happens during this time in the dessert? He encounters Satan waiting for Jesus to be at His most exhausted, most lonely, most hungry and offered Him all the kingdoms on earth if Jesus would just worship him. Jesus follows Satan’s obnoxious offer filled of such hubris with the simple statement “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Luke 4:12). He was tired, hungry, dirty, hungry, lonely. Did I mention hungry? And when Satan offers Him an “easy” way out (easy is in quotes because of all the strings that would be ultimately attached to that bargain), Jesus says a simple “no”. That’s it. No argument, no shouting match, no need for long explanations. Just simply “no”.
Jesus’ suffering, His fasting, oh how hard it must have been physically! However, the graces He must have received from His desert experience to have sustained Him for the next three years of ministry.
Then I started to think, well if Jesus felt the need to fast to prepare Himself, the son of God, for the tasks that lie ahead, who am I to think I can go through life without a bit of fasting myself? So last week, I spent some time fasting! It was a BLESSED experience…and this coming from a girl who LIKES to eat! Alright, alright, to be perfectly honest, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to eat. Too many “LOVE”s? I don’t think so. ;)
It was challenging at times as I really wanted this to be a private thing between God and myself, so I didn’t tell my family ahead of time. I just started one day and decided to take it one day at a time. The first day was quite difficult as my stomach seemed to be the black whole, wanting to engulf any all food items that came my way. Murphy’s law, right? Or maybe it’s just the idea that you always want what you can't have. But the number of times I thought of eating, thought of having a quick snack, heard my stomach growl (oh yeah that happened!), I prayed silently to the Lord. Sometimes, I prayed a well thought out beautiful prayer offering my discomfort up in union with our crucified Christ and sometimes I found myself simply saying “Thank You, Jesus”. With each day, came new challenges and my want for food became greater, therefore the sacrifice also became a deeper more full act of love and reparation.
In the end I only lasted 3 days (and not in consecutive order) as I’m weak for one thing, and I’m a nursing mama who still needs to keep up my milk supply, so I was a bit worried about that. Pitiful compared to Christ’s 40 days, I know! But there is nothing like the hunger of a nursing mama! This was most definitely a challenge for me. On top of that, it was a beautiful experience and one that I am going to try to incorporate more fully in my Lenten journey. I found myself saying more short prayers throughtout the day, every time I felt hungry or thought about grabbing a snack. I didn't realize how few times throughout the day I actually do pray. This was a bit of an eye opener for me as well. This Lent, I am rediscovering the power and real joy of fasting!
Blessings to You and Yours,
Have any plans to make your Lenten experience more Christ-filled? Feel free to share! I'm always looking for some great ideas!