With Ash Wednesday less than a week away, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to take on as my Lenten discipline this year. When I was younger, I remember agonizing over what I was going to give up this year: Chocolate. No: TV. No: Soda. No: - and on, and on. You’d think it were a question of life and death.  

As I’ve grown up, Lent and fasting have taken on an entirely different meaning. As I see it, Lent is ultimately a season concerned with love. In Lent, we pause and consider the things we set between ourselves and God. We have the opportunity to recognize the ways we’ve focused our attention inward on ourselves instead of outward on God and one another. We get to turn around - to repent - and recommit to loving God and our neighbor more fully.

In the portion of Isaiah assigned to Ash Wednesday, the prophet writes:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustices, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7).

What would happen if engaged in this kind of fast? What if we allowed ourselves to get caught up in our love for God and neighbor? Whatever we do, as we start to turn from our love self to better loving our neighbors, perhaps we’ll find we love God more deeply too. Surely, that’s more important than trying to give up sweets for a few weeks.