Rather than focusing on “what” you’re giving up for Lent, let’s ponder the “why.”
Here’s a typical conversation in my kitchen this time of year …
Kid 1: “I’m giving up bananas for Lent.”
Kid 2: “You hate bananas.”
Kid 1: “Exactly!”
Kids 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7: “MOM!!!! Simeon says he’s giving up bananas for Lent! But he hates bananas!” [Seven brothers pause … eyes widen, buzz-cut heads are scratched.] “Hey … great idea! Let’s all give up bananas for Lent!”
Sounds like my gang is focusing on the what of fasting a whole lot more than the why. It’s certainly easy to do. So when I stumble on a passage that lets in a little light, I get pretty excited. Here’s my latest gem from the Byzantine Catechism The Mystery Lived. I just taped it to the fridge:
The “why” of fasting is much more important than the “when” and the “how.” A proper understanding of fasting is needed to avoid a merely legalistic or disciplinary approach to the practice, which could lead – at worst – to pride, and – at best – to a rather dry formalism. [… ] Through sin, we have been tempted into believing that our life ultimately depends on this world,on food and things. Thus we have become enslaved to them. By fasting, we break that orientation and re-learn the lesson that our life truly depends on God and every word from His mouth. [The Mystery Lived. 2001; p38]
So whether my kids decide on ditching bananas or chocolate or screen time (cough, cough – my suggestion), I hope we at least have the why of fasting at the forefront of our minds: To draw closer to Jesus; to say to that food item or activity that the Holy Spirit is urging us to part from, “No,” at least for a time, perhaps permanently.
Rather than getting caught up in another lengthy discussion on bananas (it happens every year), I’m hoping my family will have a new sense of demanding that our eternal souls rule over our temporal stomachs – how exciting! Okay, my teenager just rolled his eyes at that last part; he also just announced:
Kid 2: “No one is giving up bananasfor Lent!”
Kid 1: “Okay then, how about …”
Phew! Fortunately, I’ve found that with fasting (like so many things I do with my kids), the success is achieved in “the trying” rather than a perfect score card. So we’ll probably take a much-needed break from evening screen time this Lent. Hopefully, this will lead to praying a little more together. Maybe we’ll toss in a spiritual classic after supper, like The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Does this mean I won’t sit a cranky toddler in front of a cartoon now and then so I can wash dishes? Of course not. That would be bananas.
This famous British poet gave up the thing dearest to him for Lent