At our house we use a “Journey to Easter” poster that helps my preschooler count the days of Lent until we reach Easter. Every day we place a sticker on a purple square and talk about what we are looking forward to about Easter. Last night I felt a pang of discouragement when I looked at all the empty purple squares ahead—we’ve still got a long way to go!
Maybe you feel the same way. I got a pretty good start but now I can’t remember what day I am on in my Lenten devotional and my promise to keep a lenten discipline is wearying instead of fresh and exciting. Maybe your Lenten fast (or promise to abstain from something) has fallen to the wayside and you are tired too.
Perseverance through difficulty, even self-selected difficulty, is one of the most challenging parts of following Jesus for the long haul. We like new relationships, ideas, and commitments because at they feel exciting and uncomplicated. But after living with something for a while all the challenging, or even impossible to change, facts come to light. It’s tempting to jump ship and find a new friendship, an easier belief system, a less flawed church, and even a more compatible spouse.
In a culture where every new product is marketed for our immediate happiness and fulfillment how do we resist the siren call of the new, teach ourselves to return to our vows, and find contentment in constancy? Self-discipline and denial are never enough to keep us on track. Guilt is a weak long-term motivator. And suffering through something simply for the sake of suffering isn’t a virtue for Christians. Whatever our circumstances, when we are tempted to run away, we need to return to our purpose for committing to remain.
In the case of fasting, we have to ask what or who am I fasting for? When properly “aimed” fasting can become a joyful, collaboration with the Holy Spirit that God uses to reorder our affections. It may starve a particular part of ourselves, which is always painful, but it also allows growth and change in other areas that will produce surprising fruit in our lives. Instead of moving on to the next new thing, we can be made new.
What is the purpose of your fast this Lent? If you are struggling, take time to name it as a part of your renewed commitment to remain. Many Restoration members named their fast on the tags in our entry area as a part of the Isaiah 58 fast but even if you didn’t list yours on the wall you can still name your fast. Ask you self: A) Who can I pray for? B) What can I fast in response? C) How can my fast benefit others? Returning to your purpose and the essential disciplines of the season, praying, fasting and giving, can help you to remain when it is tempting to abandon it.
As you journey through Lent on your way to Easter don’t walk away from your commitments when it feels difficult. Part of the promise of Lent is transformation to be more like Jesus who never leaves us and never forsakes us. As we remain we become present to others and to God in a new way the prepares our hearts for the joy of the resurrection.