Why Christians Need to Observe Lent

boxing.001Why do Christians need to fast during Lent? Because most of us have just about everything we could ever need. We are basically want for nothing, and that situation is toxic to the human soul. We have lost track of what it means to be human. Observing Lent can help us get it back.

In the 1920s & 1930s the three biggest sports were baseball, horse racing, & boxing. In 1926, a tough nineteen-year-old named Jim Braddock decided to try his hand at boxing. He wasn’t very big, but he could take a punch. Braddock was a born underdog; a middleweight who fought as a heavyweight. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and New York boxing crowds treated him like a favorite son as he lost only one fight in his first three years.

In his first heavyweight championship fight, Braddock was facing a veteran fighter with a great jab. After a few rounds his trainer told him: Jim, you gotta stop that left hand jab! Braddock fired back: it feels like I’m stopping every one of ’em. After the fight the champ pointed to a big bruise on his left shoulder. He said Braddock only hit him there twice, but left quite an impression. The champ told reporters that if Braddock knew how to use his left hand, he could’ve won the fight.

Braddock lost the fight and badly broke his right hand. The doctor said he would have to re-break the hand in order to set it correctly. Braddock couldn’t afford to have it re-broken, so during his next fight he broke it on purpose, and had it reset. With a nagging hand injury, Braddock’s career started to flag. He started losing. Almost every time he fought he broke his hand again. He once fought a man named Abe Feldman, a fighter he should’ve easily handled, but Braddock was protecting his right hand, and was miserable with his left. The referee stopped the bought and threw them both out of the ring.

Soon the depression was in full swing. Braddock was out of boxing and working as a longshoreman. He shoveled coal, and worked odd jobs to pay the bills. His right hand was so badly injured that he had to do his work mostly with his left. Over time his left hand became stronger and more coordinated. For those two years he was away from the ring his right hand finally had time to heal properly.

One day Braddock got a call out of the blue to fight an up-and-comer named John Griffith, who needed an easy win. The fight was in two days, so Braddock had no time to train, but he fought anyway, and won. Braddock went on to beat John Henry Lewis, and Art Lasky. The heavyweight champ, Max Baer, needed an easy title defense, so his manager set up a fight with Braddock. Baer was a flamboyant champion who killed one man in the ring and ruined the career of two others. He was a dirty fighter who got by on superior size and a huge personality. Everyone knew he would destroy Braddock.

The rest is history (See Cinderella Man, the movie). Braddock fought Max Baer at Madison Square Garden and beat him in a unanimous decision, in large part due to Braddock’s incredible left hand jab and powerful right hand.

When it was all over Braddock talked about his time on the docks. He had been unable to use his right hand, so he had to learn to rely on his left. That made him a better boxer. He would’ve never won the heavyweight championship without losing his right hand for a few years, and washing out of boxing long enough for his right hand to heal.

This story is a great example of what it means to participate in Lenten fasts.

Lent is the season of forty days leading up to Easter, excepting Sundays, during which Christians all over the world fast from something they are used to having. We do this because sometimes in order to grow we have to take away something we are used to. We have to force ourselves into a place where we struggle a bit, and have to learn to rely on God.

When we fast, we join Jesus in the wilderness. We put ourselves in a place where God can finally get to us; a place where we are not all armored-up and defended. We strip away some of the areas of strength that we rely on just a little too much, and let God in. We actually ask God to mess with us. We invite God to use our weakness to teach us where we need to build strength. It’s an important aspect of our spiritual journey. And, it’s the real focus of Lent.

You have lessons to learn, but you won’t learn them by watching tv five hours a day. You have deep hungers you will never explore if you keep stuffing yourself with food every four hours. You have deep deficiencies that you will never face unless you sit alone in the dark and wait for your demons to show up.

Why do Christians need to fast during Lent? Because most of us have just about everything we could ever need. We are fat & happy, and that situation is not good for the human soul. We need to go without for awhile, and tap into the deep well of strength that lives just beneath the surface of our soul.

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  • Etranger

    I like this perspective a lot. I have not been a practicing Christian for 23 years. However, I still observe some Lenten practices. I take the time to reflect on what I have and to give up somethings to “cleanse” myself mentally, spiritually, physically. it is a time to reflect on how to be a better person in this world. It is nice to have a time set aside for that (historically most cultures and religions have) and why not tag along with my Christian friends for it!

    • jekylldoc

      The time designated for Lent is the hungriest time in the Northern Hemisphere. The supplies set aside for winter are gradually used up. In the old tradition, the fat in the house was gathered up and used on “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras in French) and then the house went without it, more because the sources had run out than by choice, until some spring harvest began to be available.

      We are not familiar with the rhythms of abundance and want, but I still feel that intentionally doing without something helps to make me sensitive to the challenges of the spirit, including empathizing with those who have little. Mortals shall not live by bread alone.

  • Mike

    Max Baer was a nice guy who was loved by all who knew him.

  • 1Myles1

    Wouldn’t it be a better idea for all adults with imaginary friends to start to atone for all the evil that religions are responsible for and try to repair the damages done to humanity and our Earth?

    • jekylldoc

      1Myles1 – Child of humans, if you seriously think the damage to the earth is something religions are responsible for, you have been swallowing mythology of a very refined nature. Study a little economics to clear your brain.

      • 1Myles1

        Start with Archbishop Théophilus in 391 C.E. who instituted a policy requiring the destruction of all learning that might reflect badly on the christian god and religion.Perhaps one of the societies whose knowledge was destroyed discovered a cure for cancer.Nobody will ever know. Remember the flat-Earth and all the thinkers tortured for daring to speak truth.Remember the dark ages where knowledge was forbidden if the church didn’t approve.Think about the sick religious freaks who have decided that man has no influence on the climate because only their phoney god has the power.Watch the destruction that will cause.
        Save the world by banning such evil foolishness.
        Economics.
        See the good we do with the pittance you give us.Give more and we will do so much more. Franklyn Graham gets one million dollars a year from his “charity”. The Popes bought their own country with two golden thrones.Pat Robertson stole diamond mines.(Tip of the iceberg.) Christian economics.

        • jekylldoc

          I’m sure you can generate a much longer list of complaints against religion, and probably will. They do not amount to a drop in the bucket of causes of environmental damage. Nobody says “God wants me to damage the world, so I am going to.”

          I expect there are some climate denialists who are motivated by their religion, although I have to say I have never heard one, seen any writing by one, or met one. As far as I can tell, it might be a tale fabricated by anti-religionists. But I can tell you that virtually all pollution and environmental damage is due to what we call market failure, in which there are no natural incentives to respond to costs imposed on others as a side-effect of normal buying and selling. If you wanted to assign blame, secularism gets almost all of it. If you have the more sensible goal of doing something about it, you would be far more effective addressing the free rider problem than addressing religious beliefs.

          • 1Myles1

            Do you wilfully ignore the screaming diatribes of priests and preachers who claim climate change is a hoax?Protecting their god and their religion from truth is number one in their books.

          • jekylldoc

            I am sure there are preachers on the take just like there are politicians, journalists and web-posters on the take. Economists, too, actually. I have not even heard of a single priest claiming climate change is a hoax, which may have something to do with the hierarchy of the RCC. Possibly Russian Orthodox, but not that I have heard of.

          • 1Myles1

            Everyone connected with any of the death-cults is on the “take” unless you consider gaining your living from pushing your fraud on the innocents and weak-minded legitimate.

          • 1Myles1

            Denying that man is capable of doing any damage to our world is the greatest threat to humanity today.Denying that man is responsible for damage because “we are all god’s children and he takes care of us” doesn’t mitigate the stupidities of man,directed by religion.

          • George Waite

            How about the idiots who have more children than they can possibly feed because “suffer the little children to come unto me”?
            Or “I’m poor and this is the only thing that validates me/provides me with government money/makes me feel like a woman/makes me feel like a man/I finally have something to love”?
            Or “I don’t have any other source of support, so I’ll have four, five, six of them and hope that there’s some job out there, somewhere, for them and they’ll send me money back from wherever they go”?

          • jekylldoc

            Well, that’s a disturbing lack of responsibility, but again, it looks to me like free-riding which is as easily secular as religious.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    Why does it take a misguided ritual from a former legalistic religious system to get people to become more spiritual. Are we not supposed to be moved by the Spirit to examine ourselves constantly. And to move closer to God?

  • ptoadstool

    I gave up Lent long ago, along with the rest of my family, and we are all happier and feel better being kind to those around us and helping good causes. I reject the idea that privation is character-building. Doing good is a better idea. If you have to sacrifice something to do good, that is worthwhile. Giving up chocolate… Not so much.

    • George Waite

      Yes.
      And these preachers are always the first to claim that they still need government money/tax credits/housing allowances “because we put so much back into the community”.
      Pathetic. They need to get a life.

  • Philip Bourdon

    First, most Christian traditions do not fast. Then, by fasting we have to rely of God? You also equate a little bit of fasting with joining Jesus in the wilderness? That’s absurd. You said, ‘sit alone in the dark and wait for your demons to show up”. Wow, that’s a bit over the top with an article about lent, don’t you think? Last of all, you took most of the article to talk about Braddock where you could have done that in two short paragraphs. Clearly, you just read that and no nothing about boxing. BTW, Baer was NOT a “dirty fighter” at all (perhaps all you saw was a movie) at all and was terribly troubled by the death he caused. Please, work a little harder in your next article.