Lenten Fasting and Feasting

So we’re practicing Lent this year.

What does that mean?

We’re giving up meat for the next 40 days.

Specifically, we’re not eating the flesh of mammals between now and Easter with the exception of the Sabbaths.

In a season that is so saturated with our own confusion, anticipation, and frustration … as we struggle to figure out what’s next and how it’s next and how we’re going to get it all taken care of (can we count the number of times I ignore the Gospel in that sentence?) … it strikes me as funny that this is the season we’ve decided to embrace Lent. Because that’s the point – to recognize and suspend our reliance on things other than God, and to turn to him for the strength to get through it.

A book I’m using for school explains it this way:

The proper grace-oriented practice of these disciplines is as essential part of our formation, moving us from reliance on our own willpower to dependence on God’s grace. (Wilhoit)

As we first started to discuss fasting, I realized just how childlike my approach to Lent really is. My faith tradition growing up was not one that practiced Lent, and so this is really my first dive into fasting … and to fast for 40 days will be quite the challenge! We don’t eat meat a whole lot to begin with – 3 nights a week on average, at best – but it will still be difficult.

I’ve been scrambling around trying to find vegetarian replacements for some of our favorites, but it struck me that Lent really isn’t about that … it’s not about “replacing” one thing we love with substitutes for 40 days. It’s not about using Lent as an excuse to get rid of our bad habits either – giving up sweets for the sake of losing weight, for example, misses the point. What is the point, then? To sacrifice, to remind ourselves of God’s provision and grace in our own lives … and then to celebrate at the Sabbath table and on Easter Sunday in a way that reminds us of a time we have yet to know – when the new Kingdom has come and our days are all spent rejoicing and feasting with our King.

So here we go, on a journey that will lead us through fast and feast. I dream of Sabbath days, when we will intentionally bring friends around our table and celebrate the goodness and graciousness of God. We will bless the meat on our table and give thanks for it, before spending the next 6 days in anticipation of yet another celebration.

But today is not the Sabbath, today is Thursday. And so today we ate without meat as we will tomorrow and the next day. And our rhythm will become one that is unusual, a bit out of sync – missing a little bit of our favorite flavors. But I have faith that it will be worth it … if not worth it to me, to the Lord. Because sometimes He asks us to do things not for us, but for Him. And it’s up to us to simply obey. He will meet us with grace and mercy at the table, and we will welcome Him into these days.

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