For most of my childhood years, I understood fasting for Lent by the borscht soup passed down through my Polish Catholic heritage, good to the last drop. Rumor holds that the bowl is filled with all the lenten fast contrabands: eggs, meat, whole wheat bread, sausage, and that zippy dash of horseradish. My grandfather ladled it into our bowls with tremoring hands his last Easter and we all cried quietly while he dripped it on the fresh pressed white tablecloth.
Soon we’ll gather for our first Easter since my grandmother passed away, the matriarch of borsht who thankfully bequeathed the recipe process to my mother in time. I wish I could ask her about her Lenten fasting habits growing up.
My understanding of Lent continued as I fasted from chocolate because most people did that in high school, so I supposed I should too. I only remember it being the worst when Girl Scout cookie season came halfway through and noshing Robin’s Eggs when Easter morning finally arrived. I don’t suppose my soul really longed for Christ for my sacrifice, (but thank God He is patient in our process, amen?)
I wish the Biblical practice of real and true fasting from forms of food for the purpose of intensely drawing near to God were more common in my walk with Him. For so many years I’ve had my body on loan to little humans who need me to sustain them for life, not to mention the general lack of knowledge about the practice. I’m writing to you from a place of badly needed growth. I don’t fast as often as I should. When God holds out to me the invitation to draw near to Him in a wide range of spiritual disciplines, isn’t He so kind to reveal Himself? Shouldn’t I come to Him by any means that I can?
Christ beckons me grow hungry so I can leave behind misplaced cravings. I’ve been weary with anxiety this season, deafened by fears that drown the voice of the One who whispers peace and will not submit to His reigning peace in my soul. While there are certainly biological components that require mindful care, the underlying fact to all of my hearts’ sickness is eyes that have grown dim to His glory and goodness.
He invites me turn down the volume of the world and tune my ears to the still small voice like Elijah hearing Him in the thin silence after the earthquake. “And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12
Tish Harrison Warren, in her book “Liturgy of the Ordinary” composes her story of simply making her bed for Lent and why it replaced her normal habit of starting her day with phone scrolling.
“By reaching for my smartphone every morning, I had developed a ritual that trained me toward a certain end: entertainment and stimulation via technology. Regardless of my professed worldview or particular Christian subculture, my unexamined daily habit was shaping me into a worshiper of glowing screens…Examining my daily liturgy as a liturgy – as something that both revealed and shaped what I love and worship…when we gaze at the richness of the gospel and the church and find them dull and uninteresting, its actually we who have been hallowed out. We have lost our capacity to see wonders where true wonders lie. We must be formed as people who are capable of appreciating goodness, truth, and beauty.”
For awhile Jesus had been inviting me to bring my weary and war-tired heart to Him. The death before the life everlasting is the hallelujah chorus of our late winter calendar, and what kindness that He prunes the dead places of my life so I might grow fruitful where He chooses. He invites me to His rich table of goodness in the presence of my enemies, I have chosen to sit in the corner and snack on ashes. It doesn’t have one name in particular – vices come in all shapes and sizes and apps on my phone. My heart is an idol-making factory and forty days is not enough days to slay them all, but perhaps just during this month and a third, I can lay one small thing aside to cast my eyes to He who satisfies.
My hope for myself is that in coming to Jesus more during Lent, that I’ll do as our dear sister Elsie Iudicell says, “insist that technology stay in the realm of servant and never master.” It’s a social experiment many around me have engaged in. New eyes to enjoy social media or technology in its rightful place. Freed to know their personal boundaries.
Perhaps you’re laying aside a different misplaced affection, slaying another beast, or taking on a simple liturgy to welcome more of Christ into your life during Lent. While I so want these forty days to usher a radical change, more than likely it will be the simple and necessary recalibration for more daily walking with Jesus.
He is our Risen Savior, and He is more than worth our welcoming.