Guest Post: 3 Must-haves for Lent: Part 2

My friend Jenn Cannon has graciously agreed to share her experience of fasting during this Lenten season and its impact on her body theology. If you missed it, check out Part 1. You can find more of her writing here.

Many people, in modern Christianity, have taken the idea of a fast during Lent and tried to turn it into a positive action.  Instead of simply abstaining from certain foods, people are opting to try another way to express the same idea without the physical side-effects.  As an example: my former pastor gives up his morning Starbucks and all fast food and then donates the funds that he has saved to his favorite charity.

Unhealthy Fasting

As I have journeyed to get healthier in the last 8 months, I have found that I cannot outright deny myself a certain food without the danger of a binge looming on the horizon.  If I tell myself I cannot have chocolate for 40 days (or 46 depending on how you count it), I will most certainly have a meltdown and gorge at the end when I finally allow myself the chocolate – or I will be frantically trying to find something else to fill that need.

Either way – I lose sight of the meaning of the fast, and also do myself more harm than good.  Many people who are journeying back to health will tell you the same horror stories – fasting from any certain thing is a recipe for a binge.

Healthy Fasting

So I have learned to eat things in moderation.  Great.  But then what am I supposed to do about Lent?  If I want to participate in the spiritual journey of preparing myself for the coming sacrifice of Christ, what then can I do instead of giving up meat (which I already eat very little of) or chocolate (again, a minor part of my diet and not really a sacrifice) or anything similar?

I am fasting from laziness.  Fasting from sitting on my butt.  My Lenten practice, this year, is to commit to some form of intentional exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.  I am choosing to observe Sundays as the mini-Easter that they are, and so are not part of the fast.

So – that is my physical piece.  But, as a Lenten practice, it is fruitless and self-serving unless I add in the other aspects of prayer and service.   So, my prayer (or God-focus) part of Lent is to read Scripture more regularly, pray while I’m on the treadmill, and change the music I listen to to help keep my thoughts centered on God while I’m walking.  As for service, I am always looking for the people who cross my path that I believe God sent to me.  Also, my discipline for service will take the form of writing.

Writing as Spiritual Discipline

I have a lot going on in my head as I journey back to health – and with nudging from good friends (like Laura) – am realizing I have much to say and share as I do.  So I will be writing – intentionally – during the full season of Lent.

My writing is intended to help others understand this journey of getting healthy, encourage those who are struggling with their own health, and – selfishly – to help me process some of the stuff I need to think about – specifically regarding my self-image.

Join the Conversation

So have you thought about what you’re giving up for Lent?  Do you have a reason for your choice?  And how does your personal choice (Self-focus) tie back in to the other two aspects of Fasting: God-focus and Others-focus? Leave a comment in the box below to share your journey this Lenten season.

I am a musician, a photographer, a theologian, a customer service rep.  I am a wife, a stepmom, a sister, a daughter, an aunt.  But mostly I am a child of God striving to live my crazy life the best way I know how.  These writings have been born from my journey back to health that I started in June 2011.  At that time, I weighed over 300 pounds and needed to lose at least half my weight to be considered in a healthy range.  Since then, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds through adjusting my diet and adding exercise.  The surprising side effect is the emotional changes that go along with getting healthy – and that is what has prompted me to begin to write.

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About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on February 29, 2012, in Guest post, Physicality, Service, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’ve had a conflicted relationship with Lent. I used to hate it, giving up candy or tv for forty days. It sucked. Then I realized it was basically the Church’s version of a self-help program. Now my challenge is realizing that it’s not about self-help, it’s about God-help. Trying to do Lent right this year. Starting to feel more of a call to service and spirituality, though my mass attendance has dropped in recent weeks. Struggling to give up junk food, especially since my schedule has been so thrown off by family crisis and whatnot. Need to pray more. Focus more on God. Even though I’d much rather be playing videogames and sleeping. It’s not just about sacrifice. It’s about renewal. Sloughing the old ways and taking up again the cross of Christ, that we may join in His resurrection. Hopefully, I won’t forget.

    • Laura Cavanaugh

      I love your honesty, William. I’m so glad my friend Jenn’s post resonated with you! I’ve been where you are, where prayer seems like work and not at all as much fun as sleeping. I really like what Eugene Peterson has to say: “You cannot not breathe. You cannot not pray.” Here’s a little tidbit I found while following the Q Practices: http://networkedblogs.com/uDz2S. As a Catholic, you might appreciate the shout out to fixed prayers.

  2. great avenues for lent – great challenges too!

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