You don't have to know much about me at all to know that I am not a Catholic. I am an ordained Southern Baptist Minster, but for the last few years I have been in the practice of observing Lent. For the benefit of my uninformed protestant readers, Lent is a 40 day fast leading up to ressurrection day. (Remember my ban on the word Easter?) Actually according to this wikipedia article it is 46 days. Why is it 40 days? Because it recalls the 40 days of fasting that Jesus endured in the desert prior to his temptation.
As a protestant, I observe Lent because, for the most part, western Christians have abandoned the fast all together. I fast periodically from food for a day, but not with regularity, and Lent is the only prolonged fast I participate in. I do not believe that it earns me more of God's favor, or that more grace comes to me as I participate in the fast. But I do believe that it is worth the effort.
Many people have written well on the spiritual discipline of fasting, (I particularly reccommend Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and The Spirit of the Disciplines) so I won't waste your time here. I will say however, that I use the time and pain that occurs in in a fast to remind me to pray and to meditate on God. For example, if I am fasting for revival I use the hunger pains as a reminder to ask God to bring revival to my life and to my church.
In the case of a prolonged fast like Lent, I use the desire to participate in the forbidden activity as a reminder that suffering is a part of the Christian life. This is made more important because of the fact that I live in the US, where we have true religious freedom.
I have narrowed down my Lenten choices to 3.
- Give up Facebook - Mostly because of Scrabble, and lately the geography challenge, I have a mild addiction to Facebook. This would not be easy for me
- Give up sugar - I will still allow myself a Mello Yello each day, but otherwise, no sugar. This means no pancakes at the Baptist Men's breakfast, no fruity Pebbles, no ice cream, etc. This also would not be easy for me
- Commit to ride my exercise bike every day - This one is pretty self explanatory. My only real problem with this option is that it is not a fast. I certainly will not be able to read my Bible as I ride, and it therefore unlikely to bring me closer to God and His will for me.
Which do you think I should do?
This year Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) is February 25th. I'm putting up this poll for your input before fat Tuesday so I can gorge on sugar or Facebook or non exercise tomorrow.