Though it still seems too early to be Ash Wednesday, today marks the beginning of the Lenten season. For some of us, depending on our tradition, this means getting the mark of the cross in ashes on our foreheads as a symbol of our frailty. From dust we came and dust our fleshly bodies shall return.
For many of us, today also marks the start of a 40-day fast. For me, it means I won’t eat cheese again until after celebrating the resurrection of our Lord on Savior on Easter Sunday.
For my friend Christina Yost, of Chews UMC, a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan University, it means she won’t be killing time on Facebook or MySpace. Angie Harter, a regular staffer at Jr. High 2, is fasting from fast food and other junk. Ditto for camper Sarah Herman. Scott Lederer, who filled me in on his cheese fast last year and the discovery that cheese is in more than he realized, said earlier this week that he would likely be giving up red meat.
Lederer, a student at Eastern University and a regular staffer at Delanco, said fasting for him is a test of will and a challenge to grow closer to Christ.
It’s also about humility and recognizing that all we have comes from God. The pastor at a church service I attended at 6:30 this morning talked about fasting as a reminder, just like the ashes on the forehead, of how the things of this world are temporary.
Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us to “not store up…treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” but “store up…treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Where our treasure is, the scripture tells us, there will our heart be also.
This idea of fasting, or giving something up as my mom always used to call it when she’d ask days before Ash Wednesday what we were going to “give up” until Easter (she plans to give up one of her most favorite things things year — chocolate), comes from the example Jesus set in the scripture.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ marathon fast in the wilderness — 40 days without food — show how in His fleshly weakness He was at his strongest to fight the temptation of Satan. At his strongest? Yes, his strongest because it was at that moment that He was most dependent on His father God for strength. There was, in effect, less of the flesh and more of God.
That’s why many of us as Christians fast in some way during this time. We rid ourselves of some luxury or some excess fat in hopes that we will become more like Christ and that more of Him will show through when there is less of us and less of the distractions we so often let drown out the sound of His “still small voice.”
So whether it’s junk food, TV, Facebook or nothing at all (someone I know doesn’t fast because he he doesn’t think he will follow through), may the prayer and focus of this beautiful season of Lent be for God to move in and through us in a mighty way.