I started participating in Lent about 8 years ago because I thought it was a good spiritual thing to do. It hadn’t gained too much popularity in my circles yet and so I thought I’d give it a try. Without doing a lot of research, I declared on social media that I would be fasting from coffee for Lent. After all, how would they know how spiritual I am if I didn’t tell them? After my public declaration, I researched what Lent was all about that. It was then that I read two phrases that made me cringe: suffering with Christ and 40 days.
Suffering with Christ. The whole purpose of Lent is to join in the sufferings of Christ so that we might share in the joy of His resurrection come Easter Sunday. I didn’t sign up to suffer – I signed up to get something. But Lent is a different type of fast. Lent requires intentionality and pursuit.
40 days. No coffee for 40 days. 40 days. I refer to myself as a coffee purist (read: coffee snob) and I like to think that I have a ‘healthy addiction ‘ to it. I rarely drink it any other way than black and it is my morning companion. I ignorantly gave it up for 40 days.
I hope you’re erring on the side of grace as you read this because I’m just getting started.
Since all of Facebook knew that I was fasting coffee for Lent, I fasted coffee. I just stopped drinking coffee – that’s it. If you know anything about Biblical fasting, you know that you abstain from something in order to draw closer to Jesus. I was abstaining but doing nothing to draw closer to Him. So I was miserable.
But God is so gracious. And He lovingly beckoned me to Himself. He taught me how to share in His suffering. I could sense His anticipation for me to experience resurrection power. He was a good Dad coaching His wayward daughter.
Since that moment, I have taken Lent pretty seriously. I’ve learned that Lent isn’t just about abstaining from something but it’s about going deeper. My Lenten seasons have been marked by extended times of personal prayer and worship and fresh appreciation for the Word of God.
This year I decided to try the Daniel Fast for Lent and it hasn’t really worked out yet.
Here’s the list of what I can eat:
• All fruit – fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, or canned.
• All vegetables – fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, or canned.
• All whole grains – amaranth, barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, and whole wheat.
• All nuts & seeds – almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds; unsweetened almond milk. Nut butters are also included.
• All legumes – canned or dried; black beans, black eyed peas, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, and split peas.
• All quality oils – avocado, coconut, grapeseed, olive, peanut, sesame, and walnut.
• Beverages– distilled water, filtered water, and spring water.
• Other – unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, or soy milk; herbs, spices, salt, pepper, unsweetened coconut flakes, seasonings, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, soy products, and tofu.
I could blame it on my schedule or not having time to meal prep or grocery shop. I naturally started beating myself up when it didn’t seem like I was going to follow through on what I had committed to do. The Lord quickly reminded me of two things: #1 This is not about what I’m not doing. This is about pursuing Jesus in the secret place. #2 Fasting requires discipline. Make the time.
Isn’t that just like God? He showers us with grace and gives instruction. And even in the midst of His tender correction, I sense the urgency. Jesus is pursuing my heart and He wants my undivided attention.
I am reminded of the words of the prophet, Joel, in Scripture: “’Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’” As I write this, tears well up in my eyes because I sense His nearness. And I’m floored that He wants me – flaws and all.