Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A fast post.

I don't have much time to write this before I have to leave. God isn't time-bound but I am... and so I am a creature of rehearsals, of attending services at the same time as others, a creature of liturgical seasons even. I think outside of time, the Kingdom of God exists, and this time-bound experience of ours is part of that. So my haste is part of Paradise, and yet there is no hurry. But that's not what I meant to write about today!

There is much ado, as always at this time of year, about fasting, giving things up for Lent or for a day or a week. And there is much ado in response, from people saying, "Hey, this isn't just about self-help, you know, don't forget you're a beloved child of God" and they are, of course, absolutely right.

Margaret said,
So, if you must, do those things that help you know deep inside that you are nothing but dust, then GET OVER IT; know that you are redeemed, get over it, and get on to the true fast of reconciling the world to God. That is our vocation.

+Nick Baines said,
It [Lent] gives us the space to be grasped again by the overwhelming generosity of world as gift, of life as gift, of time as gift, of gifts as gift. Lent should make us more generous in and to the world, gracious for the world and committed in and to the world.

Just because you wanted yet another opinion, yet another piece of advice from an armchair theologian:

I say, to embark on a programme of self-improvement, to attempt to become more yourself, more who you really are? That can be about God. That can be part of "getting over it". That can be exercising the gift of freedom.

So by all means, fast during Lent if you want to. Give something up, take something on. Do it in remembrance and celebration of God's love for you. Do it as an extension of that love to the rest of the world. Do not fast because you think you should, or you want to be seen to do it, or because you're worried about not being holy enough in the eyes of God or think somehow God will love you more if you do the "right" things. There's probably a fancy theological word for that kind of manipulative behaviour.

God already loves you, with a love so large and bright we cannot bear to look straight at it and yet so small and silent it is there even when in all our searching we think we just find darkness. There is nowhere that love cannot go. There is nothing unlawful, nothing you can ever do that will make God love you any less. Love is stronger than any human sin. Love is stronger than death. Love is stronger. That's the point.

So if you're going to take on some positive habit, or give up some perceived vice, do it as a response to that love. I wrote that the other way around first time -- take on some perceived vice, give up some positive habit! Maybe I should have left it! But whether you do something or nothing, do it with a commitment to stop if it ceases to be, literally, a labour of love. If you don't love it, maybe God has other plans for you.

Among many clergy I know, and others involved in church, there is a feeling of overwhelm, of impending exhaustion. We all have these extra things, Lent courses for churched and unchurched, extra services, and most seem to take on some Lenten practice or other as well. And then just when you're getting used to the routine of it but have been doing it long enough to know it really isn't sustainable and you're starting to get the hang of Daylight Saving Time but really could have done with keeping that hour of sleep and found out that the person who usually brings you palms has pruned early this year and there aren't any, there is Holy Week with even more to do and the organist can only be at half the services because their other church pays more and maybe nobody will turn up anyway and someone is sure it was different last year and someone has moved the key to the flower cupboard. You wanted a broken and contrite heart, Lord? What you're getting is a desperately exhausted one!

And breathe.

Do what preparation you have to, but do yourself a favour and remember every day that you are loved now whether the service sheet for Palm Sunday is finished or not. Do yourself a favour and don't worry too much about how you will feel at the very busiest time... you'll get through it. Make a healthy, tasty casserole and freeze it in single-serving portions so you keep yourself fed during the busiest times. Book a retreat, even a half day of quiet somewhere, if you haven't already done so. Outsource as much of the paperwork as you can.

Then take Lent one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time, knowing you will come out the other side of it even if right now you don't know where or how.

Fast slowly.

1 comment:

UKViewer said...


An incredible post and a reminder that we all still need breathing space to be ourselves and to just 'BE' with God.

I understand what you mean about some of the extra things for Lent, but I have to admit that I have taken them on joyfully, but thoughtfully.

I think that description unconditional applies to the love that God has for each of us, which we can not hope to match - but we give all, unconditionally in the way he intend - that has to be enough! So my feeling is that fasting, if it fills a need for individuals, is acceptable, but the reality is should be productive with an aim of allocating the resources saved to help others in some way.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of Repentance, and I happily went to Holy Communion with Ashes today to be reminded of that again. I know that we are redeemed, but we are imperfect, therefore, we can fail in so many ways. Sin is a separation from God, and repentance is our way of receiving the forgiveness which no man, only God can give. That is sufficient for me.