Monday, March 12, 2012

fasting for Lent

Lent is a common time to practice fasting--abstaining from things in the hope that when we discipline ourselves, we are more likely to see God's presence around us. When we don't give in to every craving for a snack, or spend our time constantly consuming or distracting ourselves, we have more energy (spiritual, mental, and physical) to pay attention to what God is calling us to.

In that spirit, each week during Lent many in our church family are fasting from different things.

The first week we fasted from snacking between meals. I didn't find that too hard, until the end of the week--something about Friday made me crave all kinds of snacks I'd not cared about earlier in the week. But whenever I wanted a snack during the week, I spent a moment thinking of those who don't have enough to eat, and feeding my hunger for justice instead of my hunger for Girl Scout Cookies (of which I have many!).

Last week we fasted from text messaging and computer/video games. The fast runs Monday-Saturday, and by mid-morning on Monday I was already in withdrawal. I hadn't realized just how much I use texting as a way to convey and receive short bursts of information and to keep in touch with various friends throughout the day. I talked on the phone more than usual last week! It's interesting to think about the differences in types of communication. What's lost when relying so much on texting? How can we maintain connections and at the same time not be tied to that medium? And then the games...I was super afraid that I would end up losing (aka being force-resigned from) all my Words With Friends games--because if you don't play for a certain number of days in a row, you lose. :-( I was theoretically prepared for giving that up, but I confess it hurt my too-competitive soul just a bit. That doesn't seem to have happened, thanks to my friends being slow players too, so I didn't have to face those "consequences" (yes, I realize what a ridiculously tiny first world problem that is). And I really did have more time when I wasn't checking in on my games every few hours.

This coming week we're fasting from TV and movies. I don't have tv channels, and I rarely watch movies, so it shouldn't be hard, right? Well...yes and no. I mean, I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming video, and I usually go to a friend's house to watch the Monday night musical extravaganza (The Voice and Smash). And, much bigger than that, when I work out each morning I watch some tv. It's my moment to just let my mind veg out while I work my muscles...I watch the previous night's Daily Show, or I watch streaming netflix tv shows. This week, no tv during workouts. I'm not entirely certain what that's going to mean, but I suspect it means that I'll be taking advantage of the nicer weather to get outside!

As I was contemplating this situation, a parent at church reminded me (via basically preaching back to me my sermon from 2 weeks ago) that multitasking is often the enemy of the deeper spiritual and creative life. She told me to keep the tv (and the ipod) off and just go workout, focusing on what I was doing and nothing else...and that might just turn out to be the time when problems would be solved, my brain would be free to do its thing, and I might even find that my spirit was more free too. It could help to "clear the clutter" (to use a phrase that's been in our Lenten liturgy each week) if I would just take advantage of this opportunity rather than seeing the fast as a burden.

Well, she told me! and of course she's right. So this week, no tv or movies. hopefully some clutter will clear and my own spiritual vision will come into focus. When it does...I can text you about it. ;-)


  1. I heard something really interesting about boredom, how creativity happens when we're bored, and how we fill in those places with our devices, thereby diminishing our opportunities to be creative. I think this was on a New Yorker podcast, but it goes to the same thing your church person said. We need mental space. I received similar spiritual advice about making space for God, just the other day. I resented it a little. ;-) But really, we have to give Her room to work.

  2. Martha, the sermon I mention actually referenced an article like that...and there's another one here too. I've been seeing a lot of stuff about this lately. Or maybe I've just noticed it more and it's always been there? Either way--all important points. It's a little weird that usually I'm the one making the point, and this time I had to have the point made to me! :-)

  3. Love this. I'm going to use it as this week's Weds Fest...

  4. I love the idea of the congregation taking on together a different fast for each week. I'm totally stealing this for next year!