Christians across the globe began the season of Lent this past Wednesday. Traditionally Lent has been marked as being a time to give something up. There is a long tradition of fasting as a Lenten discipline which is where the idea of giving something up comes from. When a person takes on the practice of fasting it is not to experience pain, but rather to practice the discipline of delaying gratification, which is an essential factor in all dimensions of wellness. Fasting also helps to heighten the awareness of the nature of one’s true hunger, helping to clarify our need or hunger for spiritual, emotional, and relational wellness.
I love to study words, and so I find the word fast intriguing. Being that he word fast is a verb, adjective, and noun, it clearly has several meanings, including “to move quickly” and “to be firmly fixed.” To combine these two uses as they relate to the season of Lent, we could say that in the midst of our fast moving lives, Lent is a time to remember and reconnect with that to which we hold fast, that which grounds and firmly fixes our lives.
The word fast has also acquired another meaning, practices that individuals keep during Lent. Fasting from food or drink, or certain kinds of food or drink, is a spiritual practice common to most religious traditions, for example. Recently though, many people have been trying a new kind of fasting for Lent. Pope Francis recommends these new ways:
- Fast from hurting words and say kinds words.
- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and have trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
Fasting from certain foods or drink may impact our physical wellbeing, but by following this list from Pope Francis we will enhance our spiritual, emotional, and relational wellness as well.
Lent is a perfect time to slow down our fast lives and become more intentional about holding fast to the habits, beliefs, and practices that ground and secure our lives.