What is fasting?
Lent is the season in the Christian calendar that precedes Easter. Many Christians do something to observe this time as a spiritual refresher, like fasting , or refraining from, from a certain food or drink. I’ve heard of people “giving up” a range of things during Lent, like television, video games, social media, news, sports, or music. Some people “take up” a certain practice, like prayer, Bible study, or service projects.
A “critical” lesson
One of most interesting examples of fasting I’ve heard of was from the late Catherine Marshall. Mrs. Marshall wrote a memoir about her husband, Peter Marshall who served as Chaplain of the United States Senate. She also wrote a memoir, novels, and devotional books. (see links below)
In a story reprinted in Spiritual Classics, Catherine realized she was too critical, tending to judge people and situations harshly and negatively.
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.Matthew 7 :1-2 New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
(The word “judge” used here is analogous to “criticise.”)
So she felt her “assignment” from God was:
“For one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”
At lunch with her family that day several topics came up that she had definite negative opinions about but she stayed silent. Even though she felt lost without her usual sharp interaction, she said no one else seemed to notice.
“The federal government, the judicial system, the the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.”
She thought about a young man she knew whose life had gotten “sidetracked”, and suddenly realized her negative attitude toward him wasn’t helping. As she began thinking about him in a more positive way, she saw ways that his life could be turned around that she had not considered before.
She related 5 things that she learned about a critical attitude.
- It focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy.
- It can distort our perspective and destroy humor.
- It blocks positive creative thoughts God will give us about situations.
- It impairs relationships with other people, perhaps causing them to be critical also.
- It blocks feelings of love, good will, and mercy from God’s Spirit.
Whatever attitudes or habits you need to “fast” why not substitute attitudes or habits that will restore or increase your joy, creativity, positive relationships, mercy, and love.
Other posts from this blog based on the Sermon on the Mount include
Opportunities to do good
The surprising blessing of discomfort
How to be blessed, happy, and healthy
How to satisfy hunger and thirst
resources for this post
The story about Catherine Marshal is told in
Spiritual Classics- Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines.
Books by Catherine Marshall – find more at this link
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