March Family Discipline: Fasting

This year, my goal is to introduce a different spiritual discipline each month to my children.  I decided to do this because they were both baptized into Christ last fall, so the new year seemed an obvious time to really focus intentionally on their spiritual growth.  In January, we did prayer.  We prayed at set times of day in different ways, and we kept prayer journals.  In February, the focus was on meditation.  We employed lectio divina to meditate on Scripture, and kept a nature journal to help us meditate on God’s creation. 

Since March 1 was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, it seemed a natural time to focus on the spiritual discipline of fasting.  To me, fasting seemed like a more intimidating discipline to introduce to my 9 and 10 year old, but I went ahead with it because they were already fascinated by fasting.  When Greg and I opted to observed Lent a few years ago, they were so intrigued by the idea of voluntarily giving something up for 40 days that they decided to participate themselves.  They did so again last year, and so I assumed, correctly, that they would want to participate this year, as well.  Luke usually gives up some form of screens, and this year was no exception:  he chose to give up his iPad.  Anna has been pondering vegetarianism, so at my suggestion, she gave up meat with me for Lent. 

Initially, I had big plans about all the ways we would explore the concepts of fasting:  we would look at fasting in the Bible, we would try out a variety of creative daily fasts, we would be purposeful about replacing the thing from which we were fasting with time with God. 

Guess how much of that we actually did?

None of it.

I also planned to make a guide to a family media fast/fun night. 

I didn’t do that, either.  Sorry.

In fact, we totally did NOT delve into fasting like I was hoping we would.  However, my kids faithfully kept their Lenten fasts and took them very seriously.  In fact, there were times when I, as their self-appointed priest, “excused” them from their fast, and they refused my absolution.  With Luke, it was during our three hour road trip to Memphis.  I told him that he could use the iPad during the trip, but he opted for a stack of books instead.  For Anna, on the Thursday before Easter, she didn’t like any of the vegetarian options I had for lunch, and I told her she could just eat the nachos with sausage in them.  Instead she chose to eat a hot dog bun with cheese on it.  I thought it was disgusting, but I had to admire her resolve.

And honestly, that’s the biggest lesson I think my kids have learned from fasting: that one’s commitments to God are important.  That they are between them and God.  And that even if they are voluntarily made, they should be kept.

I think that’s about as deep as they got, but I also believe that those are really good lessons for a 9 and 10 year old.  I am thankful that they are starting to take ownership of their faith, and that they take their commitment to God seriously.  My prayer is that they continue to do this in greater measure in all areas of their lives.  And that as they grow older, if they so choose, they will continue to mine the depths of fasting to refine their souls, strengthen their faith, and draw them closer to God.

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