I’m not much of a chocolate fan. I know some will stop reading right there. “Nobody who admits to less than complete devotion to chocolate is worth my time.” Hey, I get it. Chocolate is powerful stuff. I just don’t particularly crave it or miss it when I don’t have it around. As we begin another Lent, I know there will be some who decide “giving up” chocolate will be a true sacrifice, a real attempt at self-denial.
I think that’s what I most associate with Lent, giving something tangible up. This is Lent as finding something you really like and deciding to stop enjoying it for a month plus. For some it’s chocolate. Once for me it was Diet Coke.
I’m certain I’ve said it elsewhere, but I’ll repeat here; this may be missing the point of Lent. Denying ourselves sure, but choosing something we don’t really need (name your vice), and forgoing it for several weeks rarely leads to any real change. For me these “sacrifices”, more often than not, lead me to desire that which I gave up more. My attention becomes fixed on the very thing I seek to think less about. Frequently the experience devolves into a countdown to the time I can once again resume the activity, eat the thing, go to the place I have been denying myself. Is this the point of observing Lent?
Drawing on Isaiah 58 (this is hard stuff) for this “Friday After Ash Wednesday”, Richard Rohr writes in Wondrous Encounters (18),
Isaiah says explicitly that God prefers another kind of fasting which changes our actual lifestyle and not just punishes our body.
Well there you have it, actual life change. I’ll just stick to skipping the sweets for a few weeks and call it good if it’s just the same with you. Actual life change? Is that really the goal? I guess if you’re reading Isaiah along with Fr. Rohr, it appears so.
Stop oppressing the poor and the outcast, God says through the prophet. Stop exploiting the weaknesses of others. Stop being people who call for blessings but don’t offer them when they have the power to do so with others.
Every time I think I’ve escaped these words, a Lenten devotional pops up and draws me back. Or a news report. Or a family stopping by the church I serve.
Actual life change. Okay, I hear you, Lord. Not just “giving up” the insignificant or the inconsequential, you want it all…actual change.
I’m going to need help. (I suppose God knew that before asking this of me or you.)
So if I give up anything, let it be self-centeredness.
Let me fast from being a jerk. Let me refrain from hurting others with my words and actions (or lack of words and actions). Let me stop living in ways that take advantage of others. Let me use what I have been given to be a blessing and not a curse. Let me know when and how and where to do these things.
And let me have friends who will join in this Lenten fasting. If we also give up chocolate or social media or some other distraction, help us to use whatever we gain in that giving up to take our next step closer to actual change and new life.
Life is better together,
2 thoughts on “Is This What You Want?”
I agree! Jeff and I decided several years ago to use the ‘giving up’ as a challenge of some sort. We also choose a positive change or new habit to form during Lent. It’s interesting to see how our mindset changes.
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Missy and I were discussing this this afternoon. I believe fasting, for most Christians, the kind of fasting Jesus did, has lost its meaning entirely. I say if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all. It’s silly to think that Good cares whether or not you’re giving up diet Coke or chocolate. Most likely you will replace the diet Coke and chocolate with regular Coke and Skittles.
God just wants your time and attention and praise. You can do that while drinking a chocolate Coke.
For the record, if you’re keeping one, I memorize scripture during lent. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 this year…and a couple of shorter ones.
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