I didn’t grow up practicing Lent, or any other practice of the Christian Calendar. Over the last five years as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the value of these sacred practices. This year, I wanted to give up something for Lent but really struggled in my decision. I eat fairly healthy, so giving up some sort of food didn’t really make sense. I gave up Facebook last year, and thought it was weird to give up the same thing two years in a row.
As I prayed about what to fast from, I had the idea to fast from self-defeating thoughts.
At first, I thought this idea was silly, selfish, and not a legitimate thing to fast from.
Then I read this article. The article uses the example of an anorexic person choosing to eat chocolate covered strawberries during Lent. The author goes on to explain a deeper meaning behind the reason for a Lenten fast, giving up self for the glory of God. In eating chocolate covered strawberries, an anorexic person acknowledges the power that anorexia has over her and chooses to take away that power and love herself (please read the article, my summary doesn’t do it justice).
Through that post, my idea to fast from self-defeating thoughts was validated. So, I went for it.
The first couple of days were challenging. I would catch myself thinking phrases such as “you’re not good enough for that”, or “you’ll never get this right”. When I stopped allowing those thoughts to enter my mind, it wasn’t even one week before I noticed an improvement in my response towards life and towards God. I felt confident, encouraged, and began to understand God’s love for me in a way my self-defeating thoughts had never allowed.
Changes began to occur in my life. I was able to let go of things I had held onto, and start living in the present again. It seemed that the soul of the world wanted to support this change in my spirit by supporting me and encouraging me everywhere I looked. I now see Love differently, in a bigger picture than before. I see myself through others’ eyes more clearly, and I see others through God’s eyes.
In less than two weeks, I forgot what I was fasting from, because I found that I was no longer believing negative thoughts about myself, and I no longer needed nor wanted to think them.
I think that Lent has many purposes. It’s a beautiful time of reflection and growth. A focused period to grasp the greatness of who Jesus was and is, and how we can relate to him. Jesus so often seems like just a magnificent story book character. Lent reminds us that Jesus is present and real. We give up ourselves, the things that we have put in a higher place than our relationships with the holy, and we re-learn how to be deep in the presence of God.
When we honestly practice Lent, we can’t come to Easter Sunday without being changed. Then Easter morning comes, and we celebrate that the Christ lives. Our journey through Lent is not over, but has just begun.