Back in high school if you were trying out for one of the varsity sports there was this thing called “two a days”. Generally it consisted of four hours of grueling practice, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. It was meant to see who really wanted to play. Fainter hearts would soon find other interests. We hated “two a days.”
That’s kind of how we look at Lent isn’t it – – – six weeks of getting in spiritual shape. Feelings of dread get stirred. “No chocolate! No whiskey! No TV! No whining! No fun for six weeks. Oh dear. Spencer Tracy, in God is My Co-Pilot, reaches over and smacks me . . . “get a hold of yourself! This is a good thing.”
This is not a very helpful way to begin! It’s important that we start this journey in the right frame of mind. I like to look at it as getting back to some ba- sics in life. Things like balance, temperance, accountability, moderation, and focus, can re-order our personal lives so we begin to see what really matters.
Most importantly, renewed kindness, generosity, devotion and prayer can, by God’s grace, increase our desire to live for God. We get reminded that our time on this earth is God’s gift, a gift to be lived in loving God and our neighbor.
And why is this clean-up necessary? Because we let things go. A spiritual sloth weighs us down and dulls our senses. We let our appetites for all kinds of things get too big and we know it. Deep down a little voice tells us, “you’re getting sloppy/careless/ greedy/selfish/snobby, etc.”
And most of all, lukewarm to God. We don’t mean for these things to happen, they just do. Like dust on your coffee table.
We’ll look closer at the Lenten practice of fasting in the weeks ahead. For now it’s sufficient to know the purpose of fasting is to free us from ourselves.
Denying ourselves some legitimate pleasure, letting ourselves become “hungry” rather than satisfying a particular appetite; these things quiet the inner voice that always wants “more”. We’ve come to pamper that voice over the year; the result being a certain slavery to whatever appeals in the moment.
Now the good news is it eventually becomes a joyful discipline. We rediscover some wonderful things we had forgotten about; things like a calmer spirit, a clearer vision of life’s “essentials”, a better understanding of how to use the things of this world properly, without excess or hoarding or waste.
But most essential in the Lenten fast is that it opens us to God and then to our neighbor. Freed from the spoiled child in us, the Lord gives us a quicker eye to see the needs of those around us.
So let’s start slow. Take some time in prayer. Ask God to show you “one thing” that needs to go (at least for a while). Make a conscious offering of it to God. (Eg. “Lord, with your grace, help me to let go of ……..”)
God will show you. One thing, not too big. Make it a gift to God. Watch what he does with it!!
Lord be with us on this journey.