Fasting is all about feasting.
That thought was new to me. It helps with how I enter into practices of the Lent season. It isn’t what I give up that matters (although I always do give up something) as much as what I indulge in that makes Lent meaningful.
Lent is not so much about what you are “giving up ” or avoiding something you enjoy in order to feel miserable (because God somehow is pleased with us being miserable). The abstaining is about making room for indulging or feasting on the good things of the Kingdom of God. So, all the fasting is for indulging more in good things, like prayer and almsgiving. And the desired result is not just a seasonal increase of activity that wanes after Lent, but for deeper character for every day of the year.
Growing up in your average Evangelical church in the ’60s and ’70s, we didn’t celebrate a bunch of days, months or seasons, like Advent in November and December, or Lent in February and March or April—that was what the religious, “works-salvation” types, were about. We had “grace” and were free of all that.
We only celebrated two days. Christmas Day and Easter Day. Everything else was just, well, ”ordinary” or life as usual.
What else did you need?
(Thankfully there were other holidays a “born again” kid could enjoy—New Years Eve and Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, and the best one, the anti-Lent: Thanksgiving.)
All our “salvation” (getting into heaven) required was Jesus’ birthday and the day that made possible your own “spiritual birthday,” the day you were “born again” and your destiny settled.
But as my understanding of salvation began to be more than just getting into heaven when I die, but about my life here and now, I became intrigued with the seasons of Advent and Lent. They became sacred time and space to enter into and know more of heavenly life now.
So one Lent season, I decided to fast from “judging others” which mostly meant, giving everyone much more of the benefit of the doubt than usual. And that was quite a challenge since I was an Executive Pastor who supervised others. I didn’t give up my job—I still had to manage those responsible to me. But in my fasting I found out how much room I had allowed for prejudice and presumption in my views of others and their behaviors and more importantly, their motives.
That Lent season took me further into being more of becoming a merciful person. And according to Luke’s gospel, that is becoming more like my Father in Heaven.
What is your fasting, the things you are giving up, working in your life for indulging in Kingdom feasting?
What good things are you enjoying more as a result of your Lent practices?
Keith Meyer coaches pastors, leads staff retreats and can be contacted at keithmeyer.org. He is the author of Whole Life Transformation: Becoming the Change Your Church Needs.