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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Lent: Fasting or Faking..?

Funny old time Lent isn't it? People who have never before shown an interest in anything vaguely religious suddenly decide they will 'give something up for Lent'. We all know them, friends, colleagues, the 'yes gave up chocolate this year' brigade, yet never set foot inside a church. I wonder why they do it? I mean for those of us that do appear in church occasionally there is a reason for it, but if you don't believe, then why fast? who are you fasting for? Is it an excuse to deprive yourself, to lose weight or to see if you can give up booze for a few weeks? It all seems a bit bizarre to me really. I think because of this I have in the past been a bit negative about the whole 'giving something up' idea. Last year I chose to take something up instead - which was to try and gain a better understanding of the Crucifixion & Resurrection, which I did through reading, prayer and reflection. It was an amazing time for me personally.

But what is it all about anyway? I mean Jesus did not fast for 40 days prior to his death did He? Yes, yes I know He did in the wilderness but that was some 3 years earlier. So where did this all come from? Well you can probably guess. It's a bit like in Sunday School if the kids don't know the answer to a question they always shout out 'Jesus', because 90% of the time the answer is Jesus! And anything about Church History, well a good guess is usually The Council of Nicea. So yes you've guessed it, Lent in it's present form was apparently set up by Constantine and his cronies. Although that said, fasting before Easter was apparent before then but usually for a much lesser period of time. One source I read even suggested the 40 days came from a mis-translation of some earlier writings where they fasted for 24 hours but some took it further and fasted up to 40 hours. This became translated as 24hours a day for 40 days... Obviously 40 days has plenty of relevance in the bible so it does seem fitting, but it has reminded me that it is just another of those things that were brought in well after Christ had died and not something that he advocated or even did Himself. Am I sounding a little cynnical?
So I guess I am wondering whether giving something up for 40 days in order to seek God is what I should be doing? I am in a season of seeking Him more anyway, and surely if the idea is to seek God further, and focus on our relationship with Christ then whatever I chose will seem crass - surely nothing is 'enough'? And anyway after 40 days (or slightly longer including Sundays..) surely our focus is a bit wayward! A week of complete reflection in the run up to Easter might be a more fitting focus...

With all that in mind I am giving something up, well 2 things actually and I am aware after this diatribe they will seem particularly rubbish. They are alcohol and Facebook. Neither of which are a huge thing to abstain from, but the reason I chose them is because they are both big distractions for me. Of an evening when I am a bit stressed after getting the kids to bed, or too tired to read,  a glass of the red stuff is always my first choice. After which I am even more tired and can't do a thing. FB too, although I personally don't post very often, I check several times a day to see what others are up to. I think because my laptop is usually just 'there' in the corner of the room, when I go past I think, 'oh I'll just have a quick look', then end up reading the posts for 10 mins when I should be doing something else. So that is why I am giving them up. Perhaps for good, but for now for Lent. Alongside this I will be seeking God more and focussing on the book of Acts which we are studying at church over the next few weeks. So thats my Lent. How about yours?

5 comments:

Dreaming Beneath the Spires said...

Interesting, I gave up Facebook a few months ago because I thought it was unnecessary for me to tell the world what I was up to, and unnecessary for me to know what the world was up to. If I was in a real relationship with someone, I would know anyway. Here was my post, http://theoxfordchristian.blogspot.com/2010/11/would-jesus-have-facebook.html#axzz1G3IG0Xsq
I don't regret jettisoning Facebook,though it did have a place of recording the ephemera of thought that may be is not worth a blog post. Or maybe, I could do more diaristic blog posts. Or tweet, which I have resisted getting into.
Anita

Red said...

oh wow, that's a good post! it's interesting a year ago I thought about canning it completely, but instead I stood back from it and just posted occasioanlly or for a particualr reason - like an event. But as I commented on your post today, I still have that desire to click click click!! I waste time on it, its such a distraction, so for now its gone. I think if I don't miss it, or rather if it becomes obviously unecessary, it will go completely :) It's so true that it breeds addiction, and like you for the same reason I have resisted twitter and the like!
blessings
redx

Emma said...

Hi Red

V. thought-provoking article. I've never given up things for Lent, partly out of laziness, but also because in the past my 'will-power' has been a snare for me. So I'll decide to give something up and then take it to ridiculous extremes or obsess about it. But I wonder if for someone like me, instead of giving something up, we could take up something new for the Lord - like a regular act of service.

Perpetually In Transit said...

I've never been on Facebook, but used internet forums a lot (too much). I've therefore given them up for Lent (except for one on which I am Admin and another which is a breast cancer support forum). After only 3 days I realise how very often I clicked on them "just to check". Now to do something better with the time saved.

nicolahulks said...

On the instruction of my DDO (or should I say firm guidance?!) I'm doing morning and evening prayer. This really shouldn't be all that hard as it's just time with God and God is great but really...struggling!!