Yes, Samantha and I have decided to give up meat for Lent. I don’t know what came over me, but for some reason I suggested it, and once it was in our heads we figured we had to go for it. We’ve tried a few things in the past, but nothing this significant. Once we gave up pizza, but we usually only eat pizza once a week, so it wasn’t a big deal. Another time we gave up fast food, which seemed inconceivable at the time, though by the end of Lent we realized that we were better off without it!
I’m not really sure what going without meat will be like. If you don’t know, Samantha is a professional cook, and we normally eat pretty well. We like good food, and we definitely like meat. All the pictures on this post are of meals that we have made for ourselves at home. I’m a barbeque guy, and I normally keep my grill going all winter long. But the grill is going to have a break until April. No need for steak knives, burger buns, or barbeque sauce.
From my perspective, the value of participating in some sort of fast for lent is that it keeps you mindful of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. Not that I think my pathetic attempt at self-imposed suffering in any way participates in Christ’s sufferings; there’s no correspondence between my voluntary self denial and Christ’s suffering. I also wouldn’t want to identify my self-punishment as connected in any way with the punishment for my sins. Some Christians have viewed fasting and other spiritual disciplines this way, and that is part of the reason why many people are wary of fasting. The debt for our sins has been sufficiently paid by Christ, and our self-discipline has nothing to add to his work on the cross. But my simple lenten discipline acts as a reminder of Christ in the midst of my usual daily routine. Every time I go to eat supper I’ll be reminded that I’m not eating meat, and I’ll be reminded that I’m doing this as a form of spiritual discipline, in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. That kind of constant reminder can’t be anything but helpful.
The key is that we don’t think of our fasting as a kind of “achievement,” or become confident in the rigour of our self-discipline. If fasting reminds me of the cross (as I think it should), then it reminds me of my sin, and pushes me to place my hope in Christ’s victory, not my own religiosity, feeble as it is.
Let us beware…of fancying we merit anything of God by our fasting. We cannot be too often warned of this; inasmuch as a desire to “establish our own righteousness,” to procure salvation of debt and not of grace, is so deeply rooted in all our hearts. Fasting is only a way which God hath ordained, wherein we wait for his unmerited mercy; and wherein, without any desert of ours, he hath promised freely to give us his blessing.
-John Wesley, Sermon 27, “Sermon on the Mount, VII,” §IV.2 (on Matthew 6:16-18)
I guess I am in danger of falling under the condemnation of Christ for announcing my fast so publicly! Maybe posting on my blog about fasting is the contemporary equivalent of the pious, disfigured faces that Jesus rebuked in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:16-18). Hopefully what I have written guards against that interpretation of my motives!