Fasting for Lent–I’m a Total Failure!

2 04 2015

I tried to give up daily crossword puzzles and sweets—and failed miserably! And the closer it gets to Easter, the worse I get in my self-discipline. Today, I’m beginning with new resolve—after all, it’s Holy Week! But even in failing to adhere to my fast, it has been a good fast.

I don’t think we are supposed to beat ourselves up over our failures, or our sins. As I see it, a Lenten fast, lasting 40 days, is not to test my resolve but to make me aware of how easily I can forget, or push out, true peace and hope in my life and seek it in unfruitful ways.

One benefit of this teeny-tiny fast came in the times I succeeded in replacing the crosswords habit and sweets craving with a prayer habit and “Jesus craving”. Sweet times of quiet and pondering the love and forgiveness without which I would not, could not live.

And lo and behold, the times I struggled with my choices yielded fruit as well! Picture the angel on my right shoulder and the devil on the left, arguing:
“Oh, you’re not at home, you don’t want to be impolite to your hostess—have dessert.” (I did.)
“You’re at the restaurant—it’s a celebratory time—you can abstain at home.” (I had a glass of wine.) I can rationalize with the best of ‘em! Put conditions on my obedience. Make excuses—lame ones.

“God is so forgiving, and this is so minor, you can just go ahead—well, God did give us all freedom to choose…It doesn’t really matter…” And the angel pops up, as Paul did, “Just because we are forgiven, does that mean we should keep sinning? NO!” Once in a while, the angel wins the arguments. But often, I have found myself presuming upon God’s forgiveness and mercy, while choosing sin or disobedience. Forgive me for taking You for granted, Lord!

I could choose to listen to that still-lingering devil saying, “You failure! Look at Jesus’ suffering! Geez, this is Holy Week—sure doesn’t describe you—not for a moment!” And I could walk away thinking certainly I am not “washed in the blood,” or worthy of forgiveness. Instead, the gentle angel whispers, “This is JUST why He died—he loves you, fallible though you are. ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…’ Learn from these failures.”

And so I learn. I become aware of the mind games I play in making decisions. How I use my time, my talents. My attitude toward my Creator, Savior, Redeemer. How I care for my body, the Spirit’s temple. This time of fasting for Lent, whether in success or failure, God has used for good. The hours I did take from doing crosswords were spent considering the wonderful Wangerin writings that helped me walk with Christ and his disciples as he approached his death; moving me to awe at the willing suffering for all of us, because of Love; and to grief that I, like the disciples, deserved what Christ endured. The times I craved sugar, or a glass of wine, I prayed that I would indeed yearn for a drink of living water so much the more.

We are beloved. Undeserving, fallible, yet fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, forgiven and redeemed. Seems like a pretty big realization for giving up doing a crossword!

Efb 4-19-11