This post is modified from the introduction of the Liberti Church Lent 2020 Prayerbook.
Tomorrow, Lent begins. The Lent tradition began in the 3rd-century of the early church and is a 40-day season of preparation and repentance in anticipation of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. Whether you are only beginning to explore the claims of Jesus, or have been a Christian for some time, Lent is a perfect season to allow God to shape your life around the cross and empty tomb of Christ in fresh ways.
Historically, Christians have used three broad categories of practices in this season: fasting, prayer, and generosity. Today, I want to offer some ideas for fasting. (Here are ideas for Prayer and Generosity). If you’re like me, you forget to think about this until Lent has already started, so hopefully this helps us all.
“Giving something up for Lent” is maybe the primary thing people associate with the season. Fasting is not meant to be a way to restart a diet or even do a sort of “detox” from something your life. Instead, it highlights the unnecessary things we use and how strong our desire is for them.
But it’s also not just about thing thing itself. As we refrain from their use, we intentionally feel discomfort or unmet desire and use those moments to turn our minds to God. We are supposed to feel weaker than normal, as this brings some humility and awareness to our mortality and frailty.
If you’ve never given something up for Lent or this practice feels a little daunting, these common Lenten fasts might be a good place to start. It’s better to just do something rather than nothing:
- Social media
- Road rage
- Podcasts and/or news (or just politics altogether)
- A particular game or app,
- A favorite TV show
However, there is still a dimension to Lenten fasting those things don’t quite get at. Each is still technically a luxury–one can go without those things and–after a few days–experience very little discomfort. Another level of fasting, then, is to experience a fast in more basic, everyday aspects of life.
- Fast from all food but water on one or two days a week, or only eat what you need to survive.
- Make water your only beverage through the entire Lent season.
- Take short, cold showers or set your thermostat colder throughout Lent.
- Turn off all screens (or even all electronics–including artificial light) after a certain time in the evening.
- Exercise with extra intensity.
- Abstain from any purchases of material goods that are not absolutely necessary.
- Don’t add seasonings to your food, including salt–even while cooking.
- Give up music with words, or music entirely.
- Fast from cars during Lent (even Uber), and only walk or take public transit.
- Make Scripture the only text you take time to read–no news, books, social media, etc.
Those sound pretty intense, right? I’ve never done any of those, though a couple I hope to try this year. There are also some other, more creative fasts I have come across that may be worth your consideration as well.
- Give up your snooze button: make yourself get up with your alarm.
- If you listen to audiobooks or podcasts at a sped up rate, slow it down to 1x speed, or slower.
- Turn your phone screen black-and-white. Both Android and iPhones can do this easily.
- See how few apps you can use in a given day. Uninstall, hide, or disable as many apps as you can and don’t use them through Lent.
- Starve the quantified self. Don’t track your calories, sleep, location, or any of the other numerous metrics we apply to our lives and barely look at or use.
- Give up your late nights: no getting to bed after midnight.
- Only eat out with others, not by yourself.
- Give up unnecessarily defending yourself or criticizing others–even if you’re ultimately “right” (yes, this can be taken too far–and be wise, but it’s meant to combat our obsession with our own reputations)
- Fast from all media intake (TV, movies, music, books, podcasts, etc) that is not by minorities or some other marginalized group.
- Fast from all non-essential trash and waste. Only use re-usable things and try and get as close to zero-waste as possible.
- Don’t take your phone with you into the bathroom.
I hope these are helpful in your thinking and meditation about how to engage in this season well. Tomorrow I’ll give some ideas for praying and exercising generosity.
What might you be doing for this Lenten season? Let us know below!
[image credit: Anthony Chiado via Unsplash]