Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Lenten Fasts? The problem of "Fat Everyday"

Dark are our thoughts about self-denial. Disappointing oneself on purpose? Why would one deny themselves of what is theirs to take and enjoy?

Pleasing Yourself: The Lie
Where I live, there are billboards with pictures of food. On my TV there are reality shows about destroying others in order to get what you can get; and movies featuring violence against neighbor and desire after one who is not your own. Everywhere there are voices of greed, lust, divisiveness and complaint.

And then midst every moment of every day, news broadcasts are airing our failures. Reporters-turned-editorialists wag fingers at those who have bought into the lie that says, "Deny yourself no pleasure, no profit, no revenge."

Because of our wealth, we are losing our morals; we have lost our once lofty expectations of ourselves...and of one another.

Fat Tuesday or Fat Everyday?
In older times, Lenten self-denial was not necessarily one's own choice. In some places, the religious culture dictated that you would fast--sometimes severely--for forty long days. Remember, these were times when luxuries like sugar, or cakes or chocolate were rare in most lives.

The natural response was to have one last splurge before the dark days of pleasure-lacking. Eventually, the day before lent (which begins with Ash Wednesday) became known as Fat Tuesday. On that day, people took license to eat, drink and be merry without restraint.

In our days, for many of us, there is never a time when we can't afford luxuries for ourselves. Fat Tuesday has become "Fat Everyday." We never lack. And we are honestly offended when someone suggests that a forty day period of self-denial might be good for us. A day without dessert? Surely not!

Fear of Empty Places
And as a result, we have become shallow. Profoundly so. We deeply fear ourselves. That is why we must have noise, people, hustle and bustle happening around us. We fear the void around us when we disconnect from our luxuries. The silence is deafening. The empty stomach makes us sick. The loneliness feels final!

Why Lenten Fasts? Because they help us listen. They draw us to the holy. They force our attention on our selfish places. I plead with you, and myself this day. Do not fear.

Don't fear self-denial. Don't fear the desert. Don't fear the vast universe where we live. Don't fear the God who will meet you, if you will only listen for a while.


Anonymous said...

Such a timely reminder. Another benefit, although it might be scarey, is we learn how much we indulge ourselves on a regular basis. Sacrifice can be such a shallow word, and a useless exercise, if we don't pursue the "face" of Him who gave his all for us while we are "fasting."

Jim said...

Silence truly can be deafening. As I sit typing this, I'm contemplating what I can be doing next in order to fill the silence. For instance, I'm happy that it's raining out because it won't be completely silent when I sleep. I like being busy but complain because I have too much to do. I think it's fair to say we all need to embrace the ordinary and find the miracles within it...but are we all too busy entertaining ourselves to slow down and listen?
I've always tend to think of God's presence as being "up there" somewhere, but lately, I've found the most peace when I think of Him as being within me, close to me.
We shouldn't fear loneliness because we aren't ever truly alone.

david said...

Thanks for developing this truth Jim and Anon. I'm looking forward to diving headfirst into lent...on purpose.

Zee said...

to be honest, at the moment i feel like leaving everything behind completely and joining Jesus the way He fasted... in the desert, alone (well, not entirely alone)... and i don't think i'd like to come back either.