“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–
when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
Isaiah 58: 6-7
I mentioned in my post Wednesday, that, while this was my first time participating in Ash Wednesday, it isn’t my first time participating in Lent. I’m not really sure what ultimately prompted me to start observing it in the first place. It was never part of my spiritual upbringing, nor do I see it mandated anywhere in scripture. Many of my friends, and some of my family participate in Lent. It may have been a desire to fit in, if I’m honest…at least the first time. The second year was different. I may talk about that at another time.
Last year was also different. As Lent approached, I felt the desire to fast grow less and less. Not for the reason you might think. I just didn’t see the point. Truly. I had already proven that I could grit my teeth and do something very hard, but I didn’t feel like that benefitted me or my relationship with Jesus. I really struggled with how eating in a certain way mattered. I wound up not “giving up” per se, but rather “taking up” a new practice. I found this much more difficult and was not very successful. Still, it was an excerise that felt more…authentic…in furthering my walk.
This year, I was once again faced with what to do for Lent, and the same futility of fasting that I sensed last year. My mind was drawn back to the book I read/used during my second Lent.
In A Place At The Table, Chris Seay leads the reader on a 40-day journey of fasting by eating what the Poor eat, for example eating staples from a certain region of the world or what one may be able to purchase with food stamps. But the fast doesn’t end there. In the first chapter, Chris quotes The Shepherd of Hermas:
“…having reckoned upon the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want, and thus you will exhibit humility of mind, so that he who has received from your humility may fill his own soul, and pray for you to the Lord.”
And this from Saint Augustine:
“Break your bread for those who are hungry, said Isaiah, do not believe that fasting suffices. Fasting chastises you, but it does not refresh the other. Your privations shall bear fruit if you give generously to another.”
“In other words,” Chris says. “If you pass on dinner, don’t simply leave your plate in the cupboard; give your portion to someone who has none.”
Aha! Now that I can get behind! It harkens right back to the passage in Isaiah that I quoted. Denying yourself in order to feed others…the kind of fasting God chose. Admittedly, I didn’t do this the year I went through the book. I had no idea how much eating differently was saving (or not saving) me. But this year, I know exactly how much my utter reliance on boxed carb sources is costing me! Actually, it was a bit of a shock when I added it all up. By breaking that habit, I’ll be saving myself a lot of money. I just won’t be keeping it.
Are you fasting this Lent? How can your fast be the kind of fasting He has chosen? Let me challenge you to let your self-denial benefit someone else.