A Fast That Can Last
Like so many absorbed in their digital devices, I found myself sneaking open my smartphone at every spare moment (and at the kitchen table during dinner) to score words like “kerfuffle” and “cantankerous”. This clever game app, like so much social media and gaming, was designed to addict–and it had this word nerd hook, line and sinker.
I deleted Words with Friends from my digital devices because Lent historically involves fasting: giving something up. It’s not fasting to show off spiritual muscle or holy pain tolerance for a season. Fasting during Lent is part of a wider focus to untangle our souls from the forces that diminish and deplete us. Lent can free us to connect more intimately with God, more attentively to our loved ones, and more deeply with our greater purpose. After years of tinkering with traditional fast items–like chocolate or wine–I chose something to fast that I had come to love and that was getting in the way of my true loves. I chose something that needed to change, and that required a spiritual frame to overcome.
Lent follows Jesus into the wilderness of Matthew 4. There Jesus fasts in prayerful preparation for his public ministry, a ministry that would end in Jerusalem on a cross. There in the wilderness Jesus is tested by the diabolos (or diabolical one: devil). The word in Greek means to tear apart. Like Jesus, we face forces that seek to tear us apart from the inside out.
A friend of mine messaged me once Easter arrived: “Hey, Lent is over, it’s time to play me in Words with Friends!” But the spell was broken, I didn’t need to play anymore. Oddly, I didn’t want to play anymore. So I didn’t re-download the app. I had found more time and energy to engage with my family, stay focused in the office, and remain alert to the Holy Spirit. Lent made a lasting impact and I didn’t want to go back.
I realized in that moment Lent must always be on the way to the Easter. Easter is about transformation, new life, the splendor of God’s great reversal. Lent is about preparing to be reversed, renewed, returned. What we choose to fast is about joining Jesus in the wilderness, leaning on God’s strength to resist the forces tearing us apart from what truly matters, and preparing to be remade in Christ.
You are invited on that journey. I encourage you to pray, to prepare, and to position your soul for Easter. I hope you’ll attend Ash Wednesday, practice a fast that can last, and experience the transforming power of the Risen Christ.