The Next 40 Days

As you probably know, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season. Whenever this season rolls around I always make time to consider how I will observe Lent, but this year has been a bit different. I have also spent an unusual amount of time reflecting on how I observed Lent last year.

If you’re one of my newer readers, last year I observed Lent by fasting from blogging. You can check out my explanation for that decision here, which probably conveys what a big deal it was for me. Any bloggers knows that the fastest way to lose your readership is to blog sporadically. But I knew it was the right decision. I needed to place my writing before the throne of God and recalibrate my motives.

And it did just that.

At first, the fast was difficult. I worried about my blog traffic (though I also refused to look at my stats). I hated the fact that I was not producing more material and that I wasn’t building my platform. And of course those were the very reasons I needed to fast from blogging. Clearly, those are not godly reasons for having a writing ministry. Those motives are human-driven at their core.

Over time, the fast became easier as I was liberated from the need to serve my own glory. Slowly, I remembered on a deep heart level why it was that I began writing in the first place. Writing was no longer an insatiable master, but a servant to the true Master. As writing assumed its correct priority in my life, I experienced freedom.

The fruits of that 40 day fast have stayed with me. I even considered repeating that fast for Lent this year. The lessons I learned and the spiritual habits I formed during those 40 days have endured, and I am so grateful that God called me to make that sacrifice. I received much more than I surrendered.

That experience changed the way I now think about Lent and the practice of fasting. Although Lent is often the excuse people use to test drive a new diet or make good on their New Year’s resolution, that is not its purpose.

Lent is a time when we prepare for Holy Week by meditating on our fragility before God and our desperate need for a Savior. It is a time when we remember why Jesus had to die. During Lent, we surrender an idol that has assumed improper centrality in our lives, and then we watch as our souls shrink and groan when that idol is taken away. We understand with new clarity that our hearts are indeed “idol factories,” and that we would be hopelessly self-destructive and broken had Christ not intervened.

But the Lenten season and the practice of fasting give us more than mere clarity. Fasting also leads to greater intimacy with God. As we purge those idols from our lives, those saviors that we depend on more than God, we return to our First Love.

With the Lenten season beginning tomorrow, I hope you will give some thought to fasting. What idol do you need to sacrifice at the altar of God’s throne, and what type of fast will help you to make that sacrifice?

As I wrote about for Her.meneutics last week, I’ve realized that control is a major spiritual issue for me that has become especially salient with my pregnancy. I am still not sure what type of fast would help me to address this problem, but hopefully God will give me some insight. I don’t want my control addiction standing in between me and intimacy with God, so I am eager to explore the depths of this sin as I prepare for Easter. We’ll see what God has in store.