Most of my Launch Into Lent series will focus on adding. But I know that many people are committed to the idea of giving something up, so I want this first post in the series to think about fasting.
The ancient way to do this was simply to choose a day of the week to give up food. But here are some different ways to fast. And if you go with one of these, know in advance to expect some discomfort (and maybe some irritability). Resolve to use these pangs of discomfort as a reminder. Maybe each time you feel your stomach growl, you could pray for those who have no food, who have to endure these feelings all the time. Maybe you could pray for assistance in your effort to be disciplined. Maybe you could pray a prayer of thanks for Jesus and others (like your parents?) who have endured substantial discomfort so that you could have a better life.
Here are some ways to fast:
--Once a week, you could eat like a third world resident. What does that mean exactly? Maybe you eat rice and not much more. Maybe you eat a bowl of beans and not much more. As you eat (and don’t eat), think about people in the world who always eat this way, who face a life that has no end to bowl after bowl of rice. Pray for them.
--Or choose a day of the week and eat nothing but fruit. Or nothing but fruit and vegetables. Or drink nothing but fruit and/or vegetable juices.
--You could fast by giving up restaurant meals. Give the money that you save to a world hunger relief operation.
--Similarly, you could give up buying overpriced drinks in coffee shops. Brew your own at home.
--You could fast by giving up second servings. Eat what’s on your plate and be satisfied with that.
--You could abstain from meat, either just red meat or all flesh foods. You could do this just one day a week (the Christian tradition would be Friday) or throughout the Lenten season.
--Giving up sugar is a time-honored Lenten discipline.
--Give up soda, both the sugary kind and the artificial sweetener kind.
--Give up on bottled water. If you need a bottle of water, fill up a water bottle from your tap. Most of us live in places that have a safe water supply. Most of the bottled water comes from a tap someplace else. These bottles are clogging up the planet, and it’s a superfluous need. Give the money you save to a world relief organization that’s dedicated to bringing a safe water supply to 3rd world nations that don’t have the safe drinking water that we do in the U.S.
--Try a news fast. That’s right, give up on keeping up with the news. The human brain was not designed to handle misery on a global scale; in fact, many people wonder if the reason why so many of us are being treated for mood disorders has to do with our increased awareness of bad news from every part of the planet. Don’t worry—if anything really important happens, someone will let you know. If you can’t handle a total news fast, give up on televised news, especially the local news, which is relentlessly grim and designed to scare us half to death. Get your news without many pictures, the old fashioned print way.
--If you’re really brave, declare a modern media fast. No music created in the twentieth century (maybe you’ll allow yourself to listen to recordings of music, as long as it’s older music, or maybe you’ll go without). No noodling on the Internet. No T.V. Amuse yourself in old-fashioned ways, like having conversations, playing games, and reading.
Fasting gives us an opportunity to focus our attention. And if we're fasting for spiritual reasons, we've freed up some time and energy to focus on God.