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Lenten Fasting

For more than 10 years, Kimball Avenue Church in Chicago (my home church) has committed to a collective fast for justice. Historically, I have joined in on their fasting, but as those years have passed, their fasting has become necessarily hyper local, battling for the needs of their neighbors in close proximity to the church itself. Some recent battles fought include funding for a local mental health facility, fighting homelessness and hunger, and working with local church leaders to form a more cohesive message and path for social justice-minded churches. The church posted the following information recently about the 2019 Lenten Fast:

This year, our Lenten emphasis will include not only a fast, but a feast. We’re fasting from ‘Individualism,’ and the pre-occupation with ‘me and mine’ without regard for others. And we’re feasting for ‘Communalism’, recognizing our need for one another and the importance of taking care of each other. We especially recognize God’s command to take special care of those who are most vulnerable and at risk for abuse.

Coincidentally, I had a similar idea for my Lenten Fast, which is what I wanted to discuss in this post.

Isaiah 58 discusses true and false fasting, making the delineation between fasting that is too internally-focused and that which has lasting affect, not just for yourself but for those around you: your neighbor, your community, your world. When giving this idea some deeper thought, I realized that my current endeavor to remove distraction and become more minimalistic has a rooted desire in both serving my community with my excess and ensuring that I take stock of those things with which I surround myself.

In taking stock, however, I realized that I have not been taking the next step, which is to be happy with what I have and spread that happiness around. Instead of constantly looking for the next thing that could make my life more simplified, I need to stop consuming and focus on those things that I have that remain and share them. As such, during this Lent, I am going to take the following steps:

  1. Work to complete my personal decluttering process.
  2. Stop buying new things, outside of necessities.
  3. Pause when something comes up that I need.
  4. Spend more time with my family.
  5. Get bored at least once a day.

For some background, number one is specific and actionable. I have been obsessed with the process of decluttering for some time now. However, the only person I can control is myself, so I need to finish my work decluttering my own stuff and call it a day. The stuff my wife and kids bring to the table cannot be something I focus on because then I am not focusing on them (see number four).

Number two is specific as well; food and toilet paper are necessities that all of us have to deal with, but recently, I have felt very consumeristic. I have not only been seeking out things that can help me simplify my belonging, but things that though I may not need them, I want an upgrade. That ends for the duration of Lent; I need to recenter and refocus on what is important and be happy with what I have right now.

Needs come up all the time outside of the necessity spectrum; number three calls out that inevitability. In these situations, I will take the time to do my research, make a decision, and then pause. I will give myself 24 hours before I move forward on anything. If I still think of it as a need 24 hours later, I will make the purchase.

Number four seems self-explanatory, but I thought I would call it out. Each of us is dealing with the inundation of technology and the 24/7 work cycle in our own way. I am going to take this time to be more intentional about my time when I share a room with my family but am not interacting with them, no matter the reason.

Number five deserves explanation. Part of intentionality with my time is also about making sure that I am not always on, always active, always producing or consuming. I want to be bored; I want to be mindful. I chose the word, "bored", for a reason, but the point could easily be made that it means I want to spend time with myself, enriching myself through introspection and stillness. If you prefer a more religious verbiage, this time will be spent in prayer.

The above steps come with a hope for outward change and expression to come inline with true fasting. My decluttering has come with plethora of valuable donation of goods to local charities and non-profits. My abstinence from consumerism will make me happier with what I have. Intentionality around consumerism keeps me in check and allows my money to go to more important things in the moment. My family is a part of my community and they deserve as much of me as they want (as my best self). And mindfulness, stillness has been shown to make for healthier, more calm people; I want to be healthier (and more calm), so that I may help others be so.