Having grown up in a denomination that did not focus upon the Lenten tradition, I am a late-adopter of the age old practice. In a way, my late adoption of the practice has been a blessing because it continues to hold a great deal of mystery and freshness for me. As we prepare for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of this 40 days of preparation leading up to Easter, let me share a few thoughts.
1) Matthew 6:1 tells us to “not do our acts of righteousness before others in order to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” In Matthew 6:17, Jesus reminds us that when we fast we are to put oil on our head and wash our face. What Jesus is saying is that don’t be a martyr. Don’t give up something just so you can go and tell everyone else about it and get either their sympathy or garner notoriety for yourself. Make it between you and God. For accountability, tell someone who you know will support you with prayer. Bottom line: Make this a private time rather than a public spectacle.
2) Do not use this time as an excuse for doing something you have wanted to do for a while and just didn’t have the will power. Again, if we do it for external purposes, that will be our reward. Lent is about growing closer to God and not reshaping our bodies or cutting out bad habits. With that being said…if cutting a bad habit brings you closer to God and you feel God leading you to fast in this area, then by all means go for it. Bottom line: Do what you do for the right reasons. God reasons not Todd reasons is what I say to myself!
3) If you slip-up, don’t beat yourself up and quit. Just start afresh and move forward. Bottom line: Sometimes we learn more in our slip-ups than we ever do in our own successes!
Hope this helps as you prepare for the journey of Lent. My prayers are with you and I covet yours for me!