It’s Ash Wednesday–the first day of Lent and I have a confession. I stink at fasting. Every year I give up something for Lent. Usually it’s food, but not always. My most successful “fast” was the year I gave up my credit card and never looked back. It’s still debit only for me.
But this whole idea of prayer and fasting just, well, eludes me. One year I gave up lunch every Wednesday of Lent. Yeah, yeah, not much of a fast, I know. Even so, it was hard. And one year I gave up French fries and last year I gave up those pastries floating around the office every Tuesday and Thursday. And it was never easy for me.
Which is as it should be.
But here’s where I always miss the boat. The fasting is supposed to be tied to prayer. Feel a hunger pang? Pray. Crave a pastry? Pray. Smell a French fry? Pray. What did I do when I got hungry or a craving hit? I mostly heaved a sigh and counted how many days ’til I could have the forbidden fruit again.
Fasting did very little to help me grow spiritually. Not because it wasn’t a good practice, but because my focus was all wrong. I tended to focus on what I was trying to give up, not on what I was hoping to gain.
So what will I give up for Lent this year? Nothing. Instead, I’m going to take something ON for Lent. My plan is to work on developing the fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That gives me about five days to focus on each item in the list. And right now my focus is love.
Here’s hoping adding fruit to my diet does the Lenten trick.