I love the concept of fasting for clarity, and am reminded of it every time Lent rolls around. Again, though I am not Catholic, I did go to Catholic school and plenty of it rubbed off on me. I have said before that I have a feeling of relief and release with confession, and I should add to that, I have a sense of purification through penance and works. Fasting fits that bill.
Now, I don’t fast foods. Giving up food isn’t a big deal to me. I can just as easily find something else I like to eat, and I sure am not going to miss a whole meal unless there is a medical reason for it. I need to eat for energy. I fast things that tickle my soul, and I select them as things I want to burn out of my life anyway.
I haven’t done a fast in several years. I’ve been too lazy. But a discussion I had last night has made me think, and I realize I may have been projecting some of my own self-criticism as criticism from others. I also realized that I couldn’t think of a good reason for doing what had started the discussion, as it was just mean-spirited.
So, what I am giving up for Lent-and-beyond is mean-spirited conversation. It isn’t flattering. It isn’t edifying in any way. It has nothing to do with the graciousness I’d like to project. It isn’t how I want you, or anyone else to think of me.
I know you’re supposed to give up something you like for Lent. I am. Isn’t that awful? I have enjoyed every one of those mean-spirited conversations! Alice Roosevelt would have loved sitting next to me–up until this morning.
With that in mind, I give you James 3:1-12, which I will be using as anchor for my lenten soulish hunger-strike. Paraphrased, if we control our tongues, we can control our worlds. And if we can control our tongues, we can save ourselves (and others) a world of hurt. But straight from Saint Jimmy in the NIV:
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Wish me luck.