In Training

Sixth Tuesday/Holy Week

Why is it that every year, chocolate tops the list of things people give up for Lent? I like chocolate too, but it doesn’t cost me much to go without. For me, my attachment to technology has given me a new category to rival food. I know I’m not alone. In 2014, the top five things to give up were chocolate, twitter, school (really?), alcohol and swearing. Gosh darn it.

The purpose of disciplines like fasting becomes clearer when we look at Paul’s direction to fight the good fight, to run the race with endurance. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. The discipline of training makes us leaner and faster. When we’re in training for a race, we become stronger, not just for marathon day but for any situation we might face.

You may or may not have given up anything as a Lenten practice this year. It’s not a requirement. It doesn’t give us any more or less points with God. It doesn’t change how God sees and loves us. What may be surprising are the gifts God gives us in surrender. Last year I felt led to give up something that got in the way of love, so I gave up uncharitable thoughts. By that I mean mean-spirited or negative thinking and attitudes toward people I care about. How could that be? I always thought of myself as a pretty loving person, yet I was noticing that I often had critical or judgmental thoughts that got in the way of living it out. It kept coming up for me, which is an indication God is trying to show me something, so I prayed for help and surrendered them for Lent. Did that mean I went six weeks without any critical thoughts? Hardly. It heightened my awareness and I became even more aware of my tendency to judge. But the new awareness helped me capture those thoughts quickly, and ask for God’s help in replacing them with something positive: love. It actually increased my desire to seek his face as I saw my own need. My true condition was inner poverty. Seeing my need helped me to connect with him.

Thinking about your own life, what disciplines might God be inviting you into? What might hold you back that you could relinquish?

Today’s prayer practice: Fasting prayer

Take a day this week and fast from something as God leads. Use that free space or time you would’ve given to a habitual action and commit it to listening to God. Let him show you any idols or attitudes of the heart that get in the way of your connection to him.

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