By: Rev. Brandon Dirks
Many “give up” something for Lent. I say, forget that!
After all, isn’t life meant to be lived to the fullest, to sink your teeth into every experience and drain out every ounce from every moment? Big, destination vacations and experiences we want to make sure our kids have are a big priority.
Aren’t feasts more fun? Buffets are one of my favorite outings, especially if it is reasonably priced! Certainly we should start with dessert.
I work hard, so why not play hard too! Did you know that in 2013, the average household spent nearly 5% of their budget on entertainment (Bureau of Labor Statistics)? That’s about twice as much as what people give to a church.
Our schedules are full of great opportunities for our families, too. Parents are running kids to multiple activities. Families are involved in church—not just attending weekly worship, but don’t forget about Sunday school, choirs, youth groups, small groups, mission trips, service activities, etc. We make time for friends, and neighborhood groups, and community and church activities because we certainly don’t want to miss out on something, or have our kids get behind.
Even Jesus said, “I came to bring them life, and have it abundantly.”
What does “abundantly” mean if it doesn’t mean excitement, feasting, entertainment, fullness, and fun?
Then I hear the complaints. We are too busy for family time. I’m overweight. I don’t have time to exercise. I want to be generous but I don’t have enough to give. I would serve, or be in a group, or help my friend move…but there is not enough room in my calendar. I want God in my life, but not sure my life has room for more ‘to do.’ Kids don’t play in the neighborhoods anymore. We have our family time in the car, most of the time with our meals. On and on I can go.
It sure seems to me that we keep doing the same thing, but expecting different results. Insanity. Chasing after the things of the world will never satisfy. Feasting on more stuff, more food, more experiences, more activity clearly has not made life the way we want it. So why do we keep doing it? Maybe…we don’t know how to stop.
Lent invites us to try to stop, and taste the fruit.
St. Augustine wrote that fasting is a “turning away from the pleasures of the world.” Richard Foster builds on that by explaining that fasting, or denying yourself a pleasure of the world, is a learning experience in how to be sustained by divine pleasures instead of human pleasures. He says, “fasting is feasting—on God alone.”
As I’ve fasted from my earthly pleasure of food this Lent, this concept of fasting as feasting has stuck with me. If fasting from earthly pleasures creates room and space for me to be able to feast on the divine pleasures, then what exactly are these divine pleasures?
That’s the very thing we all seek when we fill our stomachs, fill our calendars, fill our minds, fill our homes, fill our sexual desire, fill our (fill in the blank)…but we never seem to find…
Sound familiar? Aren’t these what we truly, deeply long for? Aren’t these what we are desperately hoping to get a taste of? Isn’t this what we truly want to feast on?
These are the fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5. All of it, and you will notice that the writer compares the fruit of the ‘flesh’ against the fruit of the Spirit. Notice the obvious? The fruit of Spirit comes from…the Spirit. From God. The pursuits of the flesh will NEVER provide those things. But we keep acting and living as if they do.
So if what we’ve been doing isn’t working, Lent allows us to try something different…to taste the true feast…a feast that will last. And I believe, once we taste it…we will begin to crave it!
Here’s what I’m seeing:
One person I know fasted from ‘screens’ one full day a week. Computers, cell phone, TV’s, etc. It’s been very hard for her so far, but you know what she has found? Peace. Peace was just sitting there waiting on her. It surprised her.
One person I know is giving away one very usable item a day for the entire time of Lent. Know what he is discovering? It’s hard. But he doesn’t need all the stuff that he thought he did.
One teenager I know is giving up eating one full day a week. She fears and dreads that day as it approaches. As she wonders why she fears it so much…she is discovering how her over-concern for food has consumed her!
One person I know fasted from television for ALL of Lent INCLUDING Sundays. That’s right. 46 days! She’s discovered just how much time she really has…and is actually struggling to find ways to fill her hours.
One person I know is fasting from alcohol. He is discovering how much money he is saving and how more present he is to his spouse and family.
One person I know committed to reading one chapter of the Bible every day of Lent. Guess what? While it is hard to get into the habit, she has found that she actually DOES have time to do it!
Sixteen people I know took up the Lenten challenge (see last blog). I wonder what they have discovered…
I’d really like to hear from any of you. How are you tasting the fruit of the Spirit this Lent as you deny yourselves the pleasures of flesh?