I recently listened to several committed and regular church attenders discussing what a drain fasting in Lent is and comparing what they were ‘giving up’ this lent. The sacrificed items seemed to be mostly food or alcohol. Nobody mentioned giving up any forms of behavior that might be problematic or ways of being that might derail their deepest spiritual aims. As I listened to my companions, I inwardly wondered if en lieu of these mundane sacrifices we should be reflecting on giving up those things in our lives that impede us from making the world a better place through our presence. I pondered how much movement in our closeness to G*d or others we achieve by giving up cheese or chocolate.
Now, let me say that I am sure – or rather have no desire to dismiss –that the self-denial of my acquaintances does in some fashion help them focus on the meaning of Lent. Fasting is indeed a spiritual exercise. Lent as it is observed is the desert time of self-denial. For Yeshua, after whom we model our Lenten fasting, desert time and fasting pertained to restraining his human internal need for survival (material security), need for esteem (be recognized/adored) and power (be worshiped). He fasts through restraining his potential and encounters a deeper – divine – impulse to love. This potential for self-emptying love seems to be nurtured by an authentic fasting from ‘worldly distractions’. And, the result seems to be a deeper connection to the source of all being that profoundly sustains.
I imagine that each of us has a unique internal desert to attend to and unique seeds that yearn to be lovingly sown. Perhaps fasting from the ‘ego self-image’ and its relationship to reality as scarcity could create space to learn to see and love grace in oneself, and then start to see it better in others and all creation: reality as abundance.
The deeper I move – the more I see how little I understand – the humbler my expectations – the simpler my way of being. The world around me is full of distractions and attractions and the desire to belong can entice. Fasting from the world’s reality becomes a means to awaken to a deeper internal reality that is richly abundant.