This Lenten Season
When you discover that you are the unworthy recipient of God’s lavish grace, you cannot help but share it with others. -Gloria Furman
It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power- it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. -C.S. Lewis
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. -Matthew 16:16
Yes, I can’t believe that it is March 2017, already! Time has truly flown by, and it’s hard to believe my son will be a year and half later this month. My husband and I are having lots of fun with this stage between years one and two.
I love that he calls me “mama” and my husband, “dada”. He waves and says “hi” and “bye-bye”. I also love that he reaches his little arms up to me anytime he wants help with his toys.
He and our dog have established a special bond. My son finds it hilarious that my dog will follow him anytime he has food in his hand. He will now entice our dog and bait him into following him around the house until my dog licks him and nibbles at his hand to pry the food from it.
At first, I was deeply concerned that our dog would hurt our son as he tried to get the food from his hand, but they both find it so amusing and my dog has been so gentle with him, that it is quite hilarious to watch.
At 1.5 years old, there’s definitely more large and stinky diapers (if you catch my drift), and the temper tantrums come more often when he doesn’t get what he wants. Toys are literally strewn all across my floors daily.
This momma also ends up cleaning more messes at the hands of sticky fingers. From food thrown on the floor, to spilled milk flung across the room, and crushed puffs in the car seat and pack-n-play, it’s a daily adventure.
It’s an adventure I wouldn’t have any other way. We are beyond thankful to have this little guy in our life.
This year, my husband and I have decided to take part in lent together by fasting and giving up sugar. Ahh! Yes, sugar!
To be more specific, we are choosing to give up desserts, pop (or as some strange people call it, soda, haha), and sugary snacks. I’m also choosing to eliminate sugar in my coffee; my husband doesn’t drink it, so this doesn’t apply to him.
Please note that as I go into detail about what my husband and I have chosen to give up for lent, it is not in an attempt to brag, and it’s not done in a prideful attempt for others to see “how sacrificial we are”. But rather, we choose to fast and participate in lent for a deeper reason- to have our hearts and minds re-directed back to Jesus.
My husband and I have never chosen to fast in the same way before. I’m looking forward to having an accountability partner who will be choosing to fast in the same area.
On a personal note, I have also decided to give up my phone and television each day until 9 AM. For some of you reading this, that may seem extremely easy, but my schedule is a little different now that I’m teaching ESL early in the mornings. I’m usually up at 3 or 4 AM teaching for 1.5-3 hours, and then taking care of my little guy.
It’s really easy for me to scan through e-mails early in the morning, have the television on the in the background of whatever task I’m doing around the house, and reach for my phone if I need to look something up, or respond to a message. Thankfully, this ‘quieter’ time in the morning is allowing me to start my day differently.
I’m sure some moms can relate with me on this one- some days it seems like the clock will never hit 9AM. Giving up my phone and television for the morning hours have actually been more difficult for me these first few days over giving up sugar. And I’m a chocolate-fiend, so that’s saying a lot!
I already had an “oops” the other morning when I woke up, checked my teaching schedule, and then began to read through and respond to e-mails via my phone. But, it was a good reminder of what I had chosen to give up and why I had chosen to give up my phone during the morning hours.
It left me thinking about how I could start my day differently.
I’ve already noticed that I’m more in-tune with the need to start and continue the day in prayer, to stay in-tune with God throughout my day. This has helped me to re-direct my priorities for the day for my family.
Why We Choose to Fast
First off, we don’t choose to fast because of a religious obligation.
We also don’t choose to fast because of pressure from friends, family, our church, or elsewhere. I don’t ask my husband to fast, and he doesn’t ask me to fast. There’s no guilt-tripping.
We also don’t choose to fast from foods to “get skinny”, haha. While this could be a result of fasting, this is never the intention of why we choose to fast. Personally, giving up food during the day is not an option for me due to health reasons, but I can eliminate the not-so-good stuff from my diet.
My fasting is NOT about, “look-at-me, look-at-me sacrificing!”
And it’s not about gaining a reward from God for going 40 days without sugar. “Amber, you are amazing! You get a gold star for all your sacrifice and you advance to level 23.” Haha, please note the intended sarcasm in the previous sentence.
If these are the reasons for fasting, then it becomes a type of self-worship. It becomes an attempt to better ourselves without the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise Father and Creator. Fasting then becomes a prideful sacrifice rather than a willing sacrifice to point us back to a greater purpose.
My husband and I choose to fast because we strongly believe that by giving up something that takes up our time, and letting go of something that we enjoy, it will then give us greater opportunity to be pointed back to Jesus.
For anyone that has had a broken limb, you can fully understand that when you go about your day you’re easily reminded of all the areas where you’re unable to use this limb.
For example, if you were to break your arm, you can no longer drive a car, put on clothes easily, cook dinner, wash your hair, pick up your children, etc. The reminder of not having mobility in your arm and how important your arm is to your day-to-day life is everywhere.
This is why we fast. We want to be reminded of our needed dependence on our Lord and Savior. And in return, there is often a breakthrough in our own lives that will come about because of this fasting.
Our fasting reminds us what was already done on the cross for us, and where our attention should be directed as we go about our days.
When I take sugar out of my diet for 40 days, anytime I have a craving for sugar, anytime I see those chocolate chip cookies in the grocery store and almost pick them up to put them in the cart, I’m reminded of why I’m fasting. I’m reminded of Jesus.
It’s not about me proving that I’m worthy enough or good enough to be called a child of God. Because I’m not worthy enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not even close to good enough.
God didn’t leverage my character and my good deeds in order for me to have a relationship with Him. And thank you God for that!
He leveraged his character- His Son. I’m reconciled not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s already done for me.
Because of God’s grace, through the righteousness and blood of Jesus, I’m made good enough. And I’m only made good enough because of the faith placed in the One who saves. The precious lamb of God died and overcame death so that I could be reconciled with my Father in heaven.
I need this constant reminder to die to myself daily and live a life of servant-hood. Because we all know how easy it is to live for ourselves, to get caught up in what “we” want, to overlook loving others, rather than living in the light and love that we are called to as believers.
It’s easy to be selfish.
Fasting points me back to the cross. It reminds me of my dependence on my Lord and Savior. It reminds me of my brokenness. It reminds me that I’m flawed, sinful, and my heart continually craves to rebel against the very God that created me.
And nothing. Absolutely nothing that I can do of my own accord will ever make me good enough to be in relationship with the holy God.
God chose to intervene on my behalf.
He chose to intervene in love.
He chose to humble himself.
He chose to show love in the greatest way possible- by sending his Son to live among men, willfully die by the hands of men, and then rise from the dead so that our sins would be forever washed away. Our debt is paid for.
I choose to fast because I constantly need to be reminded that I am only fully living when my life is humbly put before the cross daily.
Anything good that comes from me is not to gain favor from God or because of my own will, but rather what pours forth in love is all a reflection and response to what God has so graciously done in and through me.
So as I go forward in this Lenten season, I’m reminded of the gracious gift that was given to me in love and pray to draw closer to my Father in heaven.