“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face…but anoint your head and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting…”
What should I give up for Lent?
To even ask this question in 21st century America is to invite a raised eyebrow. The spiritual disciplines, especially the ones that deny oneself, are for the ascetics, the mystics, the weirdos.
Is this even the right question to ask?
Doesn’t giving something up imply never taking it up again?
Like… I’m giving up drinking.
I’m giving up smoking.
I’m giving up swearing.
I’m giving up negative thinking.
I’m giving up my sedentary lifestyle.
I’m giving up Facebook.
Giving up something implies permanence.
I know with Lent being for a season, what I “give up” I most likely will take up again.
Is it better to say I am laying aside for a period of time those things in which I delight that I can see, feel, and taste, to more fully engage in what I cannot see, like the eternal things?
If I lay aside food, my belly hunger becomes tangible, visceral, and I don’t like it. However, I find I am able to tune into what I am really hungry for…to know God and be known by Him.
If I lay aside social media, I feel dis-connected from what I’m told is most importan, and I don’t like it. Yet, I am able to recognize how dis-connected I’ve been from what really matters…knowing God and being known by Him.
Laying aside that which gives me comfort, pleasure, even the very thing I need to stay alive, is hard. Everything is shouting…the culture, my own intellect, my body…
“Don’t do it!”
But, what if at the end of it there is Jesus?
What if during a fast I can say with Saint Patrick, “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.”
Christ laid aside everything.
His crown, his body, his life.
Not forever, but for a season.
Because of this one thing, there is no room for a gloomy face here.
It has become something to anoint our heads and wash our faces for.
This Man (Jesus) suddenly remarks one day, ‘No one need fast while I am here.’ Who is this Man who remarks that His mere Presence suspends all normal rules? – C. S. Lewis