I have a few thoughts to share on this Ash Wednesday. I haven’t always celebrated Lent. In fact, I thought Lent was that stuff you pull out of the trap in the dryer after a load of towels or that fuzz in your husband’s belly button you debate about pointing out to him. I was raised in a protestant denomination that didn’t follow a liturgical calendar so my first experience with Lent as a religious observance didn’t happen until about 4 years ago while my husband and I attended a United Methodist Church.
I really gained a lot during that time of heightened spiritual discipline and I feel God uses that time of fasting and prayer to reach me spiritually in ways I tend to shut him out through the rest of the year.
I am Baptist and my church doesn’t observe the Lenten season as a closer offshoot denomination of Catholicism would. And while I don’t believe that faith is about strict adherence to religious festivals and rituals, I do believe that dedicating 40 days to prayer, fasting, and the study of scripture is important and highly underrated in the lives of many believers today.
On Fasting, Jesus didn’t say “if you decide to fast one day” he said in Matthew 6:16, “Whenever you fast…” The implication here being that fasting is a spiritual discipline that is important in the life of a believer. I do however believe that in God’s grace and mercy, he understands if there are certain health issues, tendencies to harm one’s body by eating disorders, or other obstacles one might face when it comes to fasting. For those individuals, it is highly likely they will bring more honor to God by abstaining from fasting if it causes them to stumble in other ways. That said, done appropriately according to scripture (Isaiah 58:3-8, Matthew 6:16-18) it draws the believer into a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Lots of people give up carbs or sugar or some other vice they know is bad for them and honestly, I think that is cheap. Fasting denies your body physical nourishment and teaches the principle that, “Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3) The physical, bodily hunger is intended to symbolize the spiritual longing we are to have for God’s word, and to motivate us to seek God in prayer.
While I have fasted before while making certain big life decisions or during Lent, I will not be fasting this year because the current demands on my physical body with my infant son are too much to place the added strain of food deprivation. But, I will be dedicating a greater percentage of my time throughout each day in this Lenten Season to focus on studying the Bible, to prayer, and to reflection on what it means that Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, died in my place to save my very soul. That is the larger picture of Lent.