Tuesday Reflections: A New Kind of Lenten Fast

Over the next couple of months, I’m offering Tuesday reflections on pain, healing, and recovery. I hope you’ll join the community of folks walking this road together. (To keep up with this reflection series, signup for blog updates in the maroon box in the left sidebar.)

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There is a universal truth in the human experience: we are all the walking bitten; we are all stung by our fellow humans. And here’s the rub: I’ve stung others along the way, maybe some of you.

Consider it: haven’t you felt the poison of the lying, cheating, abusing world? Haven’t those with well-meaning words wounded you? Hasn’t the venom of manipulation coagulated in your veins? Haven’t you harbored bitterness, unforgiveness, doubt in your fellow man, doubt in God? Hasn’t it become your best pet malady?

It is mine.

~Coming Clean, November 20

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It’s Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday–whichever you prefer. It’s the day before the season of Lent, the season of penitence and fasting. That being the case, today is the binge day, the fill-er-up-while-you-can-because-you’re-about-to-run-your-addictions-dry day. Don’t you love Fat Tuesday?

You may know the fasting tradition of Lent, of giving up some indulgence in an effort to better fix your eyes on the divine. It’s a tradition long celebrated in the Christian faith, in liturgical and non-liturgical settings alike. For some, it’s the highlight of their year. For others, it’s the bane of the liturgical calendar.

I’ve been considering my personal fast, and I’ve decided to come at it from a different angle. I’ll keep drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and indulging my sweet tooth. (What good is it to torture the body but indulge the soul?) This year, instead of fasting from food, I’m pushing back into a practice I started in Coming Clean. This year, I’ll practice fasting from anger, angst, and bitterness toward my fellow men.

If you sit in the quiet, if you contemplate the course of your history, do you feel the sting of your fellow men? Do you cling to the wrongs wrought against you by mothers, fathers, friends, ex-husbands, or children? Do you seethe with anger toward a boss or co-worker? You’ve had trouble with other humans, yes?

In this world you will have trouble–it’s a promise. But here’s the tricky bit: in this world, you’ll inflict trouble upon others, too. How, then, will you receive forgiveness for the pain inflicted upon others if you refuse to forgive your own enemies, family members, and friends? (Matthew 6:15) This is not a rhetorical question.

It’s Shrove Tuesday, and tonight I’ll feast on pancakes at our church’s second annual pancake supper. Then, I’ll retire to my house, grab a pen and paper, and make a list of those who’ve caused me pain. I’ll look at that list, allow the emotion to surface, and I’ll pray the words “I forgive you,” over each name. I’ll ask God to help me release the emotions, to see each pain-bearer with divine love. I’ll ask for help in fasting from anger.

Would you join me in this fast?

Reflective Exercise:

1. Would you commit to participating in a new kind of fast? Would you consider joining me in the work of forgiveness?

2. Consider the times in your life when you’ve been wounded. Pick a specific example—perhaps the pain inflicted by a lover, child, your mother or father. Make a list of the individuals that inflicted these wounds. As new names come to mind, add them to the list.

3. Pray forgiveness over each name on your list, and commit to continuing praying the same prayer each day throughout the Lenten season (from now till Easter). 

4. If you’d like to discuss this prompt, along with other reflections, feel free to join the Coming Clean Insiders Group on Facebook. There, a few souls gather and discuss a range of topics, including addiction, pain, and the path to healing.

***TINY LETTER***

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  • I’m so encouraged to read this. I’ve been starting on a bit of a forgiveness journey myself and felt that it was to be my Lent journey. I’m giving up unforgiveness and taking on generosity. Glad to be joining you on this pilgrimage.

    • sethhaines

      Thanks for leaning into this conversation and joining us. It may not be easy, but I think it’ll be worth it.