Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lenten Reflection: The Spiritual Practice of Fasting

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
   return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 
13   rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
   for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
   and relents from punishing. – Joel 2:12-13

Lent is a season for repentance, for taking a new direction, a new path. It’s a time to get out of old ruts, to try putting our feet on the path of following Jesus, taking the way of the cross.

Breaking old habits and forming new routines that lead us into wholeness is never easy. I know one person who gave up eating while reading. She hates it. One of the confirmation students gave up chocolate, and she can’t wait to get to Easter. When we take on a new practice, we may not like it very well at all.

Lent, and other times like it, are difficult because they are uncomfortable. For me, it’s less about the discomfort of giving up or fasting from a small thing like chocolate. It’s the discomfort of knowing our dependence on that small thing and how it makes us feel.  

This Lent, I gave up Facebook. I love getting the updates from friends about their lives and their thoughts. Happy or sad, I am glad to be able to share the life of my friends, even if only electronically. However, by fasting from it, I’ve realized that Facebook not only connects me with my family and friends, it also keeps me from loneliness. 

Without the distraction, I have had to confront the true distance from those I love, and my dependence on daily connection with people who live far away. My loneliness invites me to deeper connection with my God, the one who knows my sadness, my isolation. And it calls me to truly connect with those around me- my husband, my children, my acquaintances and friends locally.

It may not be fun to be uncomfortable or to realize our shortcomings, but God calls us to make true changes in our lives, to rend our hearts, not our garments. God calls us to make changes that go beyond the surface, and to strengthen our connection with our creator, returning us to the one who made us and desires us to have a whole and abundant life. 

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