Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent: Clearing Away The Muddle

The 21st century is not the poster child for self denial.

With four hundred brands of cereal, countless TV channels and 50 shades of gray (God help us), our generation will not be remembered for our restraint.  And it's done us a world of harm,

I preface all this by saying I'm the worst at fasting.  I still drink coffee when I fast, I often don't make it all the way through the day, and I'm the furthest thing from Francis of Assisi in his beautiful grace of doing without.

But I'm not quitting.  I have tasted some of the rewards of self denial.  Because really, fasting, of any kind, is good for the soul.  We have become so gorged with the things of this upside down world we've almost forgotten what it means to simply say no to the physical for a little while in order to tune in to the breathtaking, invisible world of the spirit.

The mistake most folks make with any kind of self denial is this: they forget that it is for the sake of something greater that they temporarily turn their backs on the lesser.  Self denial is not for self denial's sake: it is for the sake of removing the rocks on the road of love.   Love is the ultimate purpose of the fast.

How quickly I see the sins that lie below the surface when my usual crutches are removed.  For me, the distractions of media and food are the big hindrances.  By leaving them behind, even for a limited period of time, I take some of the weight out of the backpack I'm always carrying about that slows me down in my pursuit of God.  It is for the love of Christ that we deny ourselves.  To gain what is already ours but which we have no room for in our cluttered, muddled lives.

The ancient discipline of fasting stands like a rock while the waves of modern superficiality wash over us.  I believe each individual must seek God and ask how to begin.  For each of us the way will be different.  And we must not give up when we don't reach the mark.  Every effort to lay off the worldly and embrace the eternal is a blessing.  Start small.  Leave the radio off in the car and have a conversation with God.  Leave your lunch in the fridge at work and take a walk devoted to praying for 1 person.  If you mess it up, try again tomorrow.  Saints are forged in the fire of everyday life, with small choices.  Self denial was part of Jesus' everyday life.  Not for its own sake, but for the sake of relationship with His Father.  Really, that's what the thing is all about.

Because something has been misused, doesn't mean the thing is bad.  Many folks through the ages have taken self denial and fasting to places it was never meant to go.  Some have even espoused the idea that the physical world is evil, and all pleasure is wrong.


God went wild when He created for us the pleasures of garlic, cool streams on hot days, the smell of lilacs, the beauty of blue jays, and on and on.  We should embrace with gratitude every beautiful gift from the hand of a magnificently generous Creator.  They were made for us to enjoy.  That's a fact.

Self denial is for a time, and for a greater purpose.  I'm no expert on this subject, but the scriptures certainly do express the benefits letting go to gain something better.

During Lent, perhaps we can grow a little more in this lost benefit.  I'm hoping to clear some cobwebs from my internal attic so I am better able to:

"Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God."   Micah 6:8

One word of warning: Don't turn this into a law, or you'll kill it.

Go slow, and with grace.  And keep it to yourself.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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