Reflections on Fasting

13 Mar

How’s your Lenten fast going? Is it getting tough? Are you steadily holding firm? Have you given up? Or maybe you are starting to lose your attachment to what you gave up.  Wherever you are at with your fast, I want to share a little bit about what I have been reflecting on as I fast this season.

Remember for whom you fast.  My dad is a pilot and can get passes for my family.  He recently gave up a whole day to take my son out east to visit.  He had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight to KC, and due to a flight delay, he didn’t get back home until around 9pm.  He endured a long, boring day of sitting on airplanes and in the KC airport, but did it without a second thought in order to spend time with his grandson and to save us the airfare.

Have you ever had someone do you a favor like this? Conversely, have you ever had someone do you a favor with such a bad attitude that you would have rather done it yourself? In either circumstance, you know how important the disposition of the giver is.  When we are fasting, it’s good to keep in mind that we are doing this for someone, not just gritting through something uncomfortable just for the heck of it.  We fast for Jesus, who gave up so much more for us than we can imagine.  How can I complain about passing up a bowl of ice cream when the one I offer the sacrifice for shed every last drop of blood for me? We want our sacrifice to be a joyful gift to Jesus.

Fasting as bonding.  When my son Peter was critically ill and it was obvious that he would die, friends of ours drove from Minnesota (where we lived) to St. Louis (where he was in the hospital) just to be with us.  They knew they couldn’t “do” anything for Peter, but they wanted to share in our sorrow, so they came. Then, they returned home a day before us and cleaned my whole house since I had left it in a hurry and it was in no shape to host my whole family who would be coming up for the wake and funeral.  In the following months they continued their love and support.  I now live 6 hours away from these people, but they will be lifelong friends.  Our friendship was tried in fire.

These friends came to mind when I heard a talk recently.  The speaker mentioned that when Jesus allows suffering in our lives it is out of a desire to grow closer to us by being together with us in our pain.  Jesus didn’t want my son to die, as death was never part of his original plan for mankind.  But he was glad to be closer to me than my friends from MN, or my family or anyone could have been.  And through that experience, I have grown deeper in my relationship with Him.  I think that when we fast, we are returning the favor.   By giving up something we like, we are saying to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, or on the Cross that we want to suffer a little bit with him.  We not only want to think about his passion, but enter into it in some small way.

Fasting is decadent.  Every once and a while in my house we run out of Tupperware.  When that happens, I will scratch my head wondering who didn’t return a container or if there are gnomes that roam our house at night searching for the plastic stuff.  Then, I clean out the fridge and my supply is magically replenished! In this analogy, if we don’t clear out the putrid, rotting leftovers in our lives, there is no room for storing the freshly baked muffins.

The connection to fasting is this.  We often cling to things that keep us from receiving all that God has for us.   Fasting helps us to empty ourselves of not only nasty stuff, but of things that are good, but get in the way. So often we focus our fasting on being sad for losing the things we liked.  How much would we benefit from focusing on all the good things God will fill us with instead!

At this halfway point in Lent, things can start to drag a little.  My prayer is that we all gain a spiritual “second wind”, and wherever we are in our Lenten observances, renew our efforts to grow in love of God in this holy season.

2 Responses to “Reflections on Fasting”

  1. Jane Smith Petry March 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Good stuff Leon. That Tupperware analogy sure hits the mark. I keep working on the fasting and your thought process is helpful. No more complaints here. So much of our food is linked to PP or porn advertising that eating clean gets more difficult every day. I do sensory perception work part time at Nestle Purina in their cat division and now am checking out their links to testing with aborted fetuses. Every step we take so needs to measured. Happy Lent Jane

  2. Leon Suprenant March 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    You’re welcome, Jane, though the credit goes to Libby DuPont of our marriage and family office. Unfortunately, the way it’s set up, the author’s name appears at the end of the article instead of at the beginning.

    I have a ways to go myself when it comes to fasting. As I read your comment I was eating my peanut butter sandwich that I had to have now (instead of waiting another half hour for lunchtime)!

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