Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time that Christians historically have used to prepare for the upcoming Easter celebrations. For me and Corina, this is our third year of commemorating the Lenten season by adopting a Lenten “fast.”
I know that Lent is not kept by most evangelicals, and that’s okay. There’s no Scripture passage forbidding it or advocating it, so whether one decides to prepare for Easter in this manner is left to one’s conscience. Still, while fasting during Lent may not mandated by Scripture, the discipline of fasting is. Jesus’ instructions on fasting presuppose and reinforce the discipline. (After all, He says, “When you fast,” not if.) It’s true that, as with any spiritual discipline, there can be a tendency towards excess and legalism. But as I look at American evangelicalism today, I hardly think that we are suffering from too much fasting.
This season serves as a time of reflection upon the sufferings of Christ. It is a season of repentance, a time of dying to self that anticipates new life on the other side, just like the last days of winter anticipate the arrival of Spring.
The Lenten fast we have put together in previous years (and which we will seek to keep this year too) is symbolic in nature. During this season, we refrain from drinking anything other than water. Everytime we forego a soft drink or glass of juice and settle for a glass of water, we remember that Jesus is the One who provides us with living water. Our spiritual thirst is only quenched through our relationship with Him. Drinking only water during this time reminds us that we are to find our total satisfaction in Him alone.
We also give up anything sweet during this time (with the exception of fruits). This is intended to remind us of the sufferings of Christ and the bitter cup of God’s wrath that He drank for us. Also, our anticipation of enjoying desserts after Easter corresponds to our eager expectation for the coming new heavens and new earth, when we will feast at God’s banquet table, never again to taste the bitterness of pain and suffering.
I hope to go through the Divine Hours Lenten book this year, praying at fixed hours four times a day. It might be unrealistic to try the fixed-hour practice during this season, but we’re going to give it a shot. I’m looking forward to forming the days around times of prayer, instead of fitting times of prayer into my busy work schedule.
I hesitated to write this post. By sharing the details of a fast, I am opening myself up to the charge that we are putting on a righteous display before other people and thus risking our heavenly reward. Ultimately, God knows my motivation for writing does not stem from pride. I use this occasion to encourage others to consider doing a Lenten fast this year. And whether or not you “give up something,” at least use these few weeks to prepare for Easter, giving thought to the price paid for your ransom and the extraordinary love of God manifested on Calvary.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog