Growing up in Protestant, non-denominational churches I was vaguely aware of what Lent was but always wrote it off as a Catholic thing. Catholics do all sorts of religious things and I never really paid much attention. Besides, it seemed like not eating chocolate for 40 days doesn’t really have any spiritual significance anyway. And then there’s those people who think a religious observance is an excuse to get really drunk and do other sinful things on the Tuesday before Lent. “Sin as much as you can today before you try to be good for the next 40(ish) days.” In the past few yeas I’ve heard several Protestants talk about Lent and decided to sort of re-examine what I thought about it. While I think there are likely a lot of people who observe religious traditions just because they are traditions, or to add to some checklist to feel better about themselves, these traditions can have real spiritual significance. I don’t think removing pleasure from your life results in growing closer to God, but the practice of fasting is certainly a Biblical one and worthwhile. It also seems to be practiced rarely by the average christian. My approach focuses more on spiritual growth, rather than penance or Jesus’ suffering, which some seem to focus on during Lent. When was the last time you fasted? For me it was over a year ago, maybe two.
The Old Testament has lots of examples where God told His people to observe certain feasts or set up reminders of what he had done for them. In the New Testament Jesus sets up what we call Communion to remember his sacrifice. At Christmas we remember how Jesus came to earth, and at Easter we remember his sacrifice and how he rose from the dead. Although observing religious tradition isn’t on some checklist of things we have to do to earn salvation, I think they still have value.
I’ve decided to take this opportunity to fast for 40 days. The last few years I kind of didn’t realize Lent was ready to start till the day of or day before and it seemed kind of last minute to decide to commit to something like that. This year I’ve had some time to think about and plan. I’m not fasting from food, but from “screens” after 11 pm, which in my schedule means 2-3 hours of fasting. I wanted to choose something that I consume frequently enough for it to be noticeable and something that would help me spend more time with God. Most food items would just result in me eating something else instead and at the moment I might have a passing thought about the fast and God, but it would be far to easy to go about my day like normal. I wanted something to interrupt my life in a way I couldn’t forget about in 30 seconds. My goal is to take this time that I normally would be watching TV, on the computer, or on my iPod and instead spend time with God and read some Christian books I got a while ago but haven’t made time to read. I did this fast before for a week and filled most of my free time with other unimportant stuff but hopefully I’ll be more disciplined this time around and since it’s for a longer period of time maybe I’ll even establish new habits. (Interestingly, turning off all screens last time still didn’t result in my going to sleep earlier. I guess I can’t blame the internet for my sleep patterns)