During any holiday season, we go about making preparations for the festivities, usually without thinking a lot about the reason. But once in a while the kids will ask “what’s this all about” and you’ll have to not only focus on the reason, but find a simple way to explain it. And so it was last year, that as Mardi Gras approached and all of south Louisiana went into party mode, the kids asked what all the fuss was about.
I might be wrong, but my understanding is the whole party is the last big blowout before Lent, when all the Catholics (and maybe some others) begin a 40-day fast prior to Easter. The fasting can be sacrificing anything that is important to you – something that causes you to stop and think, and use that time to focus on Christ. Or at least, that’s my understanding.
Until recently most Christians didn’t talk much about fasting. And it’s still not a common topic, and (I suspect) an even less common practice. But certainly it was a common practice among the early followers of Christ. Maybe we’ve dropped the practice because it’s uncomfortable, or it’s not easy, or – more likely – we don’t truly understand why we should. While I’m not aware that the Scripture tells us why we should fast, I have found some great benefits. There was a time when I fasted once a week, and it turned out to be a lot easier (physically) and more spiritually strengthening than I expected. You can’t give up anything cold-turkey without having something fill that empty space – and who better to fill that space than Christ?
Last year after going through the whole Mardi Gras and Lent explanation for the girls, I challenged them to give it a try (they did; they lasted about half-a-day). And how could I issue a challenge without going along for the ride myself? So, I decided to give up diet Coke for Lent last year. And it was an interesting experience. I didn’t really crave the diet Coke, although I did miss it, and used that to focus my thoughts on Christ. After “the fast” was over, I really didn’t have a taste for diet Coke (it’s back now, in full force). I also learned that giving up something like that wasn’t so difficult because just about any other drink could fill the void. So now I’m drinking as much peach tea as I did diet Coke.
So this year, I’m thinking of challenging myself with something a little harder. I depend a LOT on food for comfort. And it fails me – miserably. Knowing that fact does not make it easy to walk away from the table. Well, actually, the table isn’t the problem, usually. It’s all the food I reach for between sittings at the table. So, there you go. I’m fasting from any food not served with my meal, and no “seconds”. I admit to having ultierior motives (I really want to stop overeating, and lose weight), but I know one of the prime reasons I overeat is to try to find comfort in food – and I know that the Great Comforter is jealous and wants me to lean on Him. And I want to lean on Him. So between now and Easter, let’s see how it goes. (I know – Lent doesn’t start until Wednesday; I can start now if I want – why wait? Procrastinating is another thing I need to work on.)