I grew up in a church tradition that did not celebrate the season of Lent. It was difficult for me when I became a Roman Catholic and this ancient (yet new to me) practice was handed to me and it was assumed that I would be able to be obedient to it. I did not know what it was for, why should I stick to it? Besides, even practices like “no meat on Fridays” were difficult (I am allergic to sea-food). When I tried to give up meat on Fridays, all I got was frustrated, shaky, grumpy, and a huge day-long headache. So fasting during Lent has perhaps been one of my biggest hurdles, even now as I serve as a minister in a protestant tradition that observes Lent.
Year after year, I have asked God to give me strength or show me the way to live out the blessing of Lenten fasting and I think that finally, God has shown me something that will lead to success. For the last year, my wife and I have been moving through the adoption process in our state. Last November and December, we were blessed beyond our hopes when two beautiful girls were placed in our home and just this week, we officially became a family. Our God is so amazing! At the beginning of our training, we were told by our class leaders that when our children were placed in our homes, we would not be able to put identifiable pictures of them on social media until the adoption was finalized. This is for their protection. It may not sound that difficult, but it is, I promise.
For a number of months, I had to not share with my online circle of friends the most significant and beautiful moments of my life. Though I did not see it as such, I had begun a fast. It was like an electronic vow of silence and sometimes, not sharing made me sad. Yet, this was a vow that I committed to make and the reason has taught me something about fasting in general. Fasting, when done correctly, makes the methodology of the fast incidental. This is because you should understand the “why” of your fast and the outcome you are seeking before your fast begins. Fasting is intentional and has a defined goal. In my case, my wife and I wanted to create the environment that would facilitate our girls joining the family. In Biblical terms, we had to decrease to see God increase (John 3: 22-36).
Looking back, I can see that I had the mindset of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8: 9-25). I wanted the power, blessing, and outcome of fasting, but the heart-condition that would make fasting successful and powerful was not present. Even now, I know that there is still a lot of growing up to do. I am grateful that I serve a God that will patiently teach me.
Now, the fast is over. The blessing of God has brought great joy to our family. We have gone through a change. I am not the same person that I was. Incidentally, now I have to re-learn sharing on social media and I have to help our daughters learn to do this responsibly as well. The fast has produced new results, new ideas, and new responsibilities.
Please be encouraged if you ever find yourself in this type of difficulty. Whether it be fasting, praying, studying your Bible, or some other spiritual discipline, you can be assured that God wants to bless you through it. You are going to have to be willing to let your heart change though. Give it time and let God teach you in the way that YOU need to learn.
May the grace of God abound to you.