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Life Chez Dee Episode #103: Exploring Fasting

So the title of this week’s Lent Course was “Exploring Fasting”. We started, as we do each week, with chatting about our day, or our week, so we can connect with each other. I was talking about all the decorating and decluttering we’d been doing, and a positive which came out of that, was a suggestion of where to get rid of all the clothes I had bagged up, which will allow me to get rid of at least another three bags of stuff which has now migrated to the garden shed for temporary storage.

We talked through what we’d each planned to action this week. Last week it had been suggested to me that it might be a good idea to read back through my blogs as that is where I may find some answers the many questions I have. I considered doing this, but didn’t. To be honest I’m probably working out quite a lot of stuff by doing lots of reflection and doing lots of writing. I find writing cathartic, I am my own counsel, and I find I’m able to order my thoughts, and offload them out into the great somewhere.

I talked about how my action plan was to pick up the Bible and start reading it. I confessed that I’d never actually picked up the Bible to read it, ever. I’d read passages, listened to readings, quotes … some of which resonated with me, some not. This week I decided to follow through with my plan of action. I didn’t know where to start. I googled where to begin, and I was pointed in the direction of John. I read a couple of chapters, and quite honestly it wasn’t doing much for me. I’m not an avid reader, I never have been. I felt that I needed to read passages which were relevant to me, to what I was doing, or to which I could relate. When I listen to a passage, and an explanation of such, the words really sit with me … my thoughts were, that this was the way I needed to access scripture. Kim talked about the many ways that we could read the Bible. We could start at the beginning and work our way through cover to cover; or we could look at it devotionally, picking out different selective passages and focus on its relevance or whether it resonates with us.

Fasting is widely seen as vital to spiritual health. We talked about denial, and what might balance this. If we give up chocolate, or biscuits, then what are we asking God for in return? Is it for him to be present in our lives more, or do we have a particular difficulty or challenge which we need to give to God and which we need help with? I’ve a long list, so I may need to think about narrowing my ask. Or maybe I need to deny myself more, and give all my problems, challenges and questions over to God. Is giving up something materialistic really what Lent is about though, or is it really about giving some of our time to God, however much, or however little that might be.

I’ve given up chocolate, and biscuits, and I’ve given my time and commitment to this Lent course. Justin and William have said that they too will join me in giving up biscuits and chocolate for Lent, even Oliver said he’d join in with giving up Nutella (or rather the cheap Aldi version, Nutoka, which is currently in the cupboard) … which to be fair he does have far too much of. This has provoked much discussion of late. William asking when it was the start of Lent, as he grabbed several chocolate digestives from the fridge. This week I caught Justin eating a Wagon Wheel. “I thought you were giving biscuits up for Lent” I said. Apparently he’s only giving up snacking on biscuits in between meals, and that he still likes to have a biscuit and a cuppa with his lunch. And today I discovered that the packet of Jammy Dodgers has been snaffled too … apparently not all Justin, Oliver has had a few too. I then listen to Justin’s caveat regarding the giving up of chocolate, and apparently he is only denying himself solid chocolate … a thin covering of chocolate on say a Crunchie bar is ok apparently!

William raised the question of whether I would be baking cakes to compensate for not having any biscuits. What would I do with the ripe bananas? Were we still going to have chocolate/banana muffins? “No” I said. Then he asked about the Jaffa Cakes in the cupboard. Were these technically biscuits or cakes. I remembered this discussion some years back when there was some dispute in the amount of tax paid on biscuits vs cakes. I believe that a cake goes hard when it’s out of date, whereas a biscuit goes soft. I said that at any rate, they wouldn’t be eating these during Lent as they were covered in chocolate! These will no doubt fall into Justin’s exceptions to the rule though with only having a thin covering of chocolate.

“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18) TNIV

So is it wrong for me to be writing about my Lent journey and my thoughts? It says so here, but then if I don’t, then I must deny who I am. I ponder why I am writing about Lent. It isn’t to brag about giving up this, that and the other. I am writing about my journey, I am journaling and documenting my thoughts and experiences. I don’t think my writing about this is hypocritical; this is me, this is what I do, and writing about this experience is no different to writing about any of my other thoughts and experiences. So what is my ask? What am I fasting for? Just to say I’ve given up chocolate, or am I really seeking more of God and from God?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

This is true faith. I don’t think I have this yet. I think I’ll be work in progress for a long time. I hope that God recognises that I am trying and that my trying counts. I was reassured by the rest in the group that actually everyone is work in progress on their journey. However much you think you know, you will always yearn to know more, and there is always more to discover … and that’s exciting. However much or little faith we think we have, we have faith. It doesn’t really matter if we’re taking giant leaps, or tiny steps, whether we’re going very fast, or incredibly slow on our journey.

This Lent course has allowed me to give my time to God, so that I may learn more, and grow more. I may be a long way off knowing God, but I am trying and I hope he’ll see. I woke in the night with this hymn going round in my head, I’ve no idea why, so I’m taking this as a sign.

“Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee. *Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in endless praise.”

By Elizabeth Dee

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