Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. First thought; "Oh joy, time to give up something I really like. What will it be this year? Chocolate? Television? Social media? Avocado pits? I have to give up something because that's what Lent is all about, right?"
Short answer - No. Lent is a time for us to recognize our own humanity, our mortality, our dependence on God. It is a time for self-evaluation and spiritual renewal. How does 6 weeks of no chocolate renew my spirit? It doesn't. Fasting, whether it is food or a pleasurable habit, is an important discipline. It reminds us of our worldly "dependencies" and redirects them back to our dependency on God. The problem is, fasting is more than not eating (that is just starving yourself).
There was a day when fasting was a more common discipline. In those days the amount of time it took to gather, prepare, and eat a meal was considerably longer than it takes us today. By fasting one suddenly had a bit of free time on their hands. One could make use of that free time by spending it in prayer, reading scripture, or building deeper relationships with fellow believers. Not eating that chocolate bar doesn't free up much time for prayer, does it?
This Lenten season let's consider a more fruitful form of fasting. Let's ask ourselves "What can I "fast" from? What can I give up so I can have more time to deepen my relationship with God?" Let's take that time and spend it wisely by growing, living, and sharing our faith together. Let's use that time to reflect on and grow in our prayer life, our worship of God, the time we spend in scripture, our relationships with fellow believers, how we share our gifts and resources, and how we share the joy we have found in a life centered on God. Let's "sacrifice" one of those daily Netflix binge-watching hours for an hour of prayer, sharing our faith with someone, or volunteering to help someone in need. That will be a fasting that bears the fruit of the spirit.