This week is when you really set the tone for lent. The “new” has probably worn off your lenten commitments by now, and all that’s left is the aggravation of self-denial. I spent the weekend at a basketball tournament watching my kids devour candy and milkshakes. It was brutal. I am so spoiled. Thank heavens we never fast on Sundays. I think I put myself dangerously close to a sugar coma yesterday binging on chocolate and calling it resurrection. I can already tell that today is going to be rough.
Self-denial sucks. It’s nothing but aggravation at first, but this stage won’t last forever. This week is the really hard work of committing to a small self-denial that will bear only the fruit of annoyance for another week or so. No illusions, no fanfare… just you and your commitment to fast from something you rely on for comfort. You are a pioneer chopping down trees and clearing the rocks from the ground. That’s what this week is about. Next week, the seeds go in the ground.
So, our task here in the first full week of lent is to to reassert our commitments. This week is all about momentum. Either one will move toward a more committed observance of lent, or one will begin to let the fast slip away. Today it is important to remind ourselves of what we are doing and why we are doing it. You have the chance to commit yourself to a program of simple self-denial and noticing the impact this has upon you during lent. Don’t waste it. Clear out space through a simple fast, and see what God does with that opening in your life.
If you are looking for ideas on what you can give up, I’m submitting this list of 40 simple fasts in 40 days. This is the list for the first full week of lent.
First Full Week of Lent
Monday: Put your phone in a drawer.
Untether from your phone from dinnertime on. Don’t let yourself check in before bed. Just try to be content to rest assured that the world will continue spinning if you don’t check your email and social media. Don’t supplement one screen habit for another. Try to live among the 3-dimensional people for the evening.
Tuesday: Go exactly the speed limit all day.
This is a difficult one for me, I confess. I am a terrible speeder. Going the exact speed limit in the far right lane does have a kind of zen-like effect on me, though. Hopefully you’ll remember to give yourself extra time so you won’t be late to everything. My only warning is to make sure you avoid becoming the rolling roadblock that clogs up traffic. This discipline is for you alone and should not be inflicted on other drivers.
Since you are back to driving fast today, try doing so in silence. No radio, no podcasts, no headphones, or sports talk. If you are driving by yourself just be still and quiet. Try to be present to the Lord while you go. Don’t generate conversation. Don’t talk to God. Just drive and try to be aware of God’s presence with you.
Thursday: Appreciate something beautiful.
What signifies beauty for you? Is it something found in nature? A song? A painting? A sculpture? A movie? Pick something that is, in your opinion, unequivocally beautiful and spend some time appreciating it. If you can do so in person all the better. Go to a museum. Get out in nature. Get face to face with beauty if you can. If not, then use a screen. Allow yourself to have no other agenda other than to simply appreciate the beautiful as beautiful.
Friday: Rearrange your living room.
Even if it’s only for the rest of the weekend and you put things back Sunday night, try a different configuration in your main living space. force yourself to navigate the room in a completely different way. Change the seat you usually sit in when you are resting. Face a different direction. Arrange things without a television as the focal point. The way we arrange space has a powerful impact on our lives. Try to notice the way a new arrangement makes you feel.
Saturday: Pick the longest line at the grocery store.
If you won’t be at the grocery store today, then go to the longest line at a traffic light, or car wash, or airport, or someplace where humans are queuing up. Don’t fight and scratch to the front of the shortest line. Be content to come in last in the race to the front of the line. Pay attention to the people around you. Notice their anxiety levels, as well as your own.
Sunday: Celebrate Resurrection.
Not everybody does it this way, but at Redemption our tradition is that we don’t fast on Sundays. Sunday is meant to be the day of week that we celebrate Resurrection. Every Sunday is a feast day, not a fast day. So feast! If you gave up chocolate for lent, go to the QT, grab that Snickers bar and go to town.