14 Mar From What Are You Fasting?
was recently introduced to a new “app”. It’s called “WeCroak” (wecroak.com). It’s not about bullfrogs. It’s about mortality and death. It’s based on a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person, you need to contemplate death five times a day. And so, five times a day at random intervals, the WeCroak app sends a quote to your phone from a variety of philosophers, writers, and notable people, all of them talking about death.
As I mentioned last week, Lent is the season of the church year when we think and talk about death more intentionally than usual. We practice “mini-deaths” in our choice to abstain from something or add something as a Lenten practice to our daily routines for these forty days. Fasting is one such discipline that has been practiced by adherents of various religious faiths through the centuries and more recently, by those who choose it for its health benefits as opposed to its spiritual benefits.
Traditionally, of course, we think of fasting as abstaining from food. But as a Lenten practice, the application can be far more diverse. Perhaps you need to fast from people who are toxic for you, who try to crack or damage you. You might choose to fast from believing you’re not good enough to receive love or be accepted for who you are. Maybe fasting from judgment, shame, or criticism—especially when it is self-imposed—is a spiritual practice that is needful for you. The Washington Post featured an article last week about churches that are inviting their members to fast from using plastics during Lent, to emphasize our oneness with our planet.
I find that fasting is a much richer practice when I know what I’m going to put in place of that from which I am abstaining. If I’m forgoing food one day a week, I can use the time I would normally spend shopping, preparing, and eating that food to visit an elderly neighbor, or read an uplifting spiritual author, or pray. If I’m abstaining from self-judgment, I can replace the negative self-talk with gratitude, naming my blessings and thanking God for them, as well as thanking the people who “grease the wheels” of my life each day—the person who delivers the newspaper, shares an encouraging word, gives directions at the hospital, or bags my groceries.
It seems that we are becoming less and less comfortable with death in our culture. Long gone are the days when relatives were “laid out” at home. The details of death and dying are now largely in the hands of “the professionals.” The trouble with our reticence, even fear, of honestly talking about death is that death has so much to teach us about how to live well. By starting at the end of life and looking backwards, we better understand the consequences of the decisions we make and the attitudes we harbor each day. If we want to be loving people, we have to make loving choices today, no matter how inconvenient. If we want to be people of faith, we have to exercise trust today in the circumstances we’re facing right now. If we want people to speak well of us at our death, we have to treat people with respect and kindness now.
I urge you—don’t let another day go by without thinking about your mortality because that, in turn, will lead you to think about your life. Live today with purpose and intentionality, choosing who you will be and the good you will do. In the words of former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, “learn to be a place in the world where God’s [love] can come alive.”
Yours for the Kingdom,