Boycotting Lent: I’m Not Fasting For It, I’m Fasting *From* It

Boycotting Lent: I’m Not Fasting For It, I’m Fasting *From* It February 13, 2018

Life and death are what we all hold in common, and there certainly seems to be endless reminders throughout each day of the death part– literally and metaphorically.

Whether driving by a cemetery and seeing a blatant reminder of the literal death that waits for us all, or navigating areas of our life that are now empty where they used to be filled, messages reminding us of the ever present work of death can be found all around us.

Some people are oblivious to them– and I sincerely envy these people.

Lives are full and busy, their hearts and homes feel complete or content…

Essentially, some people are so busy living that they don’t take much time to think about dying. And for those who are busy living lives they are content with, they don’t have to experience that many forms of death amidst the life they’re fortunate to live.

And that’s precisely where the season of Lent comes in. The season of Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, and it kicks off every year with Ash Wednesday. Growing up fundamentalist, I didn’t know anything about Lent or Ash Wednesday, other than it was “Catholic” and therefore really, really bad.

However, as an adult Christian, I learned that wasn’t the case on either count and began the spiritual tradition of recognizing and participating in the season of Lent. For those who are so busy living that they don’t spend much time thinking about or experiencing dying, participation in lent can be an antidote that brings some spiritual balance to our lives. Some people need a reminder to make the most of now. Some people need to be reminded that you don’t always get everything you want or need.

In fact, Lent begins with an in-your-face reminder that you’re going to die. As you walk forward and quietly experience your pastor or priest spread ashes on your forehead, the ashes are intended to serve as a present reminder that “from dust you were created, and to dust you will return.” During the remainder of Lent, it is also customary to practice fasting– deliberately denying yourself something for an extended period of time, and going without.

Lent is a reminder of death. Lent is also an opportunity to pause, reflect, and to experience a small form of death in one area of life, in order to remind you what it’s like to go with unmet needs or unmet desires, and to remind you to seek God in those moments.

This is something that is good, healthy, and practically helpful for many. For others, it’s literally the last thing we need.

I’m in the later category, so this year I’m breaking with my own historical tradition and am skipping Lent. In the past it’s been good and helpful, but this year I don’t need any of it. Seriously.

Other people will be fasting FOR Lent, but this year, I’ll be fasting FROM Lent.

It’s like the entire last year of my life has been some twisted version of a Lent-groundhog-day where you can’t outrun reminders of death, and can’t opt out of experiencing death. Some days have felt like never-ending mine fields of death experiences, and the last thing I need is one more. On @$%!ing purpose.

There’s been losses. Empty houses. Empty chairs and empty beds. New routines that feel like daily reminders of death. There’s been way less time, and way more time, in radically different ways. There’s an entire 4-month chunk of my life I barely remember other than laying in bed crying, when the only words I could utter in prayer was “it hurts too much.”

There’s been the endless days sitting in front of a computer where I used to be able to just spit out words naturally, as if writing and sharing and teaching flowed from a core part of who I am. The same spot where I once wrote a book cover to cover in six weeks became a spot where I struggled to finish three sentences by the end of one.

It’s as if every single day of this past year has been filled with countless experiences of death, and death to parts of me that I never wanted to be killed off. If fasting is going without core wants or needs for a period of time, I just fasted for an entire year of my life.

Oh, and then there’s certainly been the reminder of literal, physical death, as shortly after my father turned 60 this year he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While prostate cancer caught that young is often completely treatable and survivable, his turned out to by a more aggressive form that had already spread outside the prostate– meaning it was diagnosed at stage 4 and will require radiation, other therapies, and comes with a future that isn’t as predicable or secure as we initially hoped.

So, yes– I think participation in Lent is a good thing to do for many Christians. Especially super busy American Christians who often will find unexpected benefits in pausing, remembering death, and allowing parts of themselves to experience death for a short season. When you live a life where the vast majority of your wants and needs are met, it can be really healthy to remember what it’s like to go without.

But this year, I can’t fast for Lent– I have to fast FROM Lent, because my soul is worn out from the death experiences and death reminders that I’ve been stuck in for such a long season now.

I’m needing to skip ahead to the end of Lent– to that resurrection part.

Because I don’t need more reminders that I’ll physically die one day. I don’t need even one more area of my life that experiences forms of death or denial.

This year, instead of deliberately experiencing more death inside of me, what I’m really secretly longing for is a glimpse of hope that maybe– maybe— one day in this earthly life I’ll experience resurrection.

I don’t need the ashes or fasting. I don’t need someone to remind me I’ll die. What I’m really needing is a solid reminder that one day I’ll live.

For all those who don’t need one single more reminder or experience with death, I am with you– and this year I’m inviting you not to fast with me FOR Lent, but to fast FROM it.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and holds his doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ron McPherson

    Someone once asked my uncle what he was giving up for Lent. His response? “church”!

  • Matthew

    I’ve come to appreciate the kind of reflection the church year promotes, but I still think I get the heart of this post.

  • Time4T

    It has certainly been that kind of year.

  • SamHamilton

    Thank you for this reflection. While I love the how the liturgical calendar requires us to focus on different aspects of our faith, I can understand Mr. Corey’s desire to forgo Lent for this year. I hope he’s not so reminded on a regular basis next year.

    Interestingly enough, the practice of observing Lent goes back centuries, to a time when our ancestors experienced many more reminders of death weekly then we, thankfully, probably do in a year.

  • SamHamilton

    Why did he say that Ron?

  • Ron McPherson

    He was just joking

    Edit: At least I think. There may have been a subtle message there; not sure

  • SamHamilton

    Haha… I see.

  • gimpi1

    You’ve had a rough road this last few years, and I’m genuinely sorry that you’re going through this. Here’s hoping for better times ahead.

  • Greta Holt

    I am very sorry to learn of your troubles. Our church letter just shared some thoughts from Pope Francis about giving up things for Lent. Some were: ‘Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Etc.’ I hope that your life will breathe better for you and with you this year.

  • Summers-lad

    “What I’m really needing is a solid reminder that one day I’ll live.”
    Excellent line, great thing to remember and hold on to in the bad times, and I hope you find a good solid reminder.

  • Artistree

    In my youth as an Evangelical Fundamentalist, I did not grow up observing Ash Wednesday or Lent. When I became an Anglican I half heartedly observed Lent, but in the past number of years I have taken Lent much more seriously, focusing on repentance and examining my life, with both fasting and looking to do more sharing goodness with others. It has done my heart a ton of good.
    Here is a video on the Biblical Roots of Ash Wednesday…..

  • Jennny

    DH just went onto an acquaintance’s FB page and it’s status reads ‘Off Facebook for Lent’.

  • Liz Parkinson

    Thank you. Yes, I need to give up Lent. I was sitting thinking and fretting about how bad a person am I for thinking what I am think – someone died 2 years ago this week, who had caused me a massive amount of pain and heartache since I was a child; 2 years on from the death, i am at the place of being glad the person is dead, so much that I want to celebrate it. All of last year I was struggling with extreme pain whilst the medics decided what was causing it. A month ago the decision was made that I would be better of without that bit of me, and it has gone, and it doesn’t hurt now. I feel better just for reading your post, and writing about what has happened. I am sorry you have had a bad year, I hope this year it gets less bad.

  • Realist1234

    Have you read Brant Pitres ‘The Case for Jesus’? It’s excellent.

  • Artistree

    Hey Realist, I’ve purchased “The Case for Jesus” but I have not read it yet. I should read it during Lent ! Thanks for the reminder to read it. Pitre is a great teacher.
    Blessings of a profitable enriching Lent,

  • Realist1234

    U2, Rodd


  • Realist1234

    Ben, it can mean a lot to others when you show your weakness. So many are afraid to drop the mask. Far too many ‘strong’ Christians going around.

    I dont know what has been going on in your life over the past year particularly, but do you have someone to give you a hug?


  • Helen Evison

    Thanks for sharing your profound struggles. One Lent I had just been at my sister-in-law’s funeral after she had hanged herself and my late husband Stephen was in hospital because of his severe mental health difficulties and I went to a retreat place run by monks at Alnmouth and had some helpful times sharing my struggles. I woke up the next morning and felt loved when I found a chocolate bar outside my room! I had been going through suffering and pain for years with my husband who died in May that year (1998) from his fourth overdose. Now Lent is a time I don’t give things up, but I instead give to support those in greater need than me. God carried me when all I could see was that being a Christian meant pain. I was blessed with a second husband in 2000 and have just become a granny. God is good.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Thanks for your story. I had a similar story this past year. 2017 was a b*tch of a year for me. Had a cousin hang himself and I couldn’t handle it. Also could never find the bottom of whatever bottle was in my hand. Gained a lot of weight and put a strain on my marriage. I would sit in front of my comfort place (my computer) and couldn’t dredge up the motivation to play video games. All I could do was watch Youtube and Netflix and get drunk and cry. Depression, or profound sadness, can be a MF.

    Here’s to a brighter 2018, Dr. Ben.

  • Bones

    Wulla hope you get it all back together, mate. Look after yourself and look after your mate. My wife’s helped me get through a whole heap of crap – losing work, losing my Mum…..And yep my appetite for beer, scotch and bourbon is limitless and I just came out of a stage where I needed a six pack of beer a night just to get to sleep. The work I have at the moment is a complete and utter bitch causing infinite stress where some nights I don’t sleep at all. The Darkness can be all consuming and sometimes you need to make a conscious effort to do something you enjoy. I’ve bought myself some weights and going on runs as I now have Type 2 Diabetes with extreme high blood pressure. As my doctor told me, how old do I want my kids to be when I die.

    I’ve said it before but your wife is beautiful and you’re a good bloke that she’s sees very special.

    And suicide’s a f**king bitch…..which only time can heal.

    Here’s to 2018 and a great year for you, bro.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Yes, Benjamin you are right.
    Humans need to live longer, healthier lives. Maybe hundreds of years, maybe thousands of years.
    And we need to stay young as well.
    Medical science is working on it.

  • apoxbeonyou

    Thanks, man :) Appreciate it.

  • Not really, but the thought of it is nice.

  • Brandon Roberts

    never knew anyone who fasted for lent irl.