We were at a Reformed Church service where the pastor speculated on why people give up things for Lent. I have never been able to fast even though it is something the Church requires on Good Friday and strongly encourages on Fridays of Lent. I have never been able to understand the connection between fasting and increasing intimacy with God. Sacrificing TV or fiction to use that time for prayer made much more sense.
Some people give up things for Lent because they have been taught they are supposed to do this. That was never enough reason for me. I needed to be able to see the point to it. For a number of years, I preferred to do something such as extra spiritual reading rather than give up something like chocolate as it seemed too negative. I have come to understand that the more resistance I have toward giving up something, even for a day, the more I am attached to it. If I am too attached, then I am enslaved and it has become an idol. The “it” .could be as simple as flavouring I add to coffee.
I am beginning to see how detaching from these little things is a way we empty ourselves. But even this is something we can’t do without His grace. I wonder if it is a “chicken and egg” thing. Do our acts of self-denial result in greater love for God that increases our willingness to empty ourselves or does God infuse in us a sufficient love for Him that we are able to practice self-denial? The spiritual reading I am doing is increasing my interest and desire for self-denial at an intellectual and emotional level. However this is not yet finding expression in my will and behaviour. The 12-step program slogan “act as if” would indicate that I should be able to just do it. I’m not there yet.
Obedience and sacrifice is an expression of love. Jesus said we are to fast “now that the Bridegroom is taken away”. If I am not willing to obey in this area, what does that say about the quality of my love for Him or my level of spiritual maturity? It says I have a lot of growing to do. I want to be holy and wholly His and I have total confidence in His mercy.