Based on my calculations, we’re about halfway through Lent. And every year certain aspects of Lent get easier, while others prove more difficult.
Take fasting. No, please, take it. It’s an inconvenience and kind of a drag. But that’s the point.
When we were kids, at least in the Greek Orthodox tradition, it meant going meatless more often, and sometimes everything-less, especially during Holy Week. We don’t do the “give something up for 40 days” as our Catholic brethren do, but I understand the idea behind abstaining from certain foods and certain things. It’s a great way to introduce children into the concept of fasting.
So fasting from what? What’s more challenging than not eating the things that you love?
A lot. Three points;
- Christianity is one of the only faiths I can think of that has no dietary restrictions. Nothing God made is unclean. Have at it.
- Related to point one, Christians don’t go to heaven or hell based in a checklist of ritualistic behaviors. What you eat, what you say, and how many times a day you pray aren’t the final arbiters of your place in eternity. It’s much more personal and far less mechanical. In other words, it takes hard work, far harder than adhering to a checklist.
- How sad a state we are in when fasting becomes such a deal breaker for many! Americans are surrounded by food. We are drowning in it. Is it really that hard to put the fork down for 40 measly days?
But the food let has become easier for me. Age and maturity will do that to you. And it’s good because a little physical discomfort can sharpen your mind for the things you are truly supposed to abstain from.
Sinfulness. Your flaws. Things you do that you know you shouldn’t do but that you do anyway.
These are the things Christ was crucified to help us overcome.
Okay, if you’re not a Christian, or even religious, I am aware of how silly his may sound. But roll with me here.
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
No matter who you are, there are self-destructive patterns to your thoughts and your behaviors. And unless you are seriously messed up, you know this. You know you should stop.
Lent provides a period every year to focus on this. It’s a bit navel-gazey, but the only way to beat back the devil is to make yourself strong. And, at least for the faithful, we do it through Christ.
You might do it through something else. That’s great! The important thing is to realize that improving yourself will spill over into improving others in your life.
It is a never-ending battle that lasts until the Second Coming. A short, yearly reminder of the stakes and of what it takes to succeed should be viewed with joy and not angst.
The food . . . the food is secondary, tertiary even. (I don’t know the word for “ranked ‘fourth’ in importance).
Sin is what we are truly fasting from. Sin and evil and self-destruction.
You know, the things that have plagued humanity since the dawn of time.
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