Happy St. Pat's Day!
A month ago I decided to do some fasting and have some times of solitude and silence during Lent to hopefully help increase my receptivity to God. So I wanted to tell about how it's been going.
As I said at the Ash Wednesday service, the odd thing about fasting and times of solitude and silence is that you're not doing anything. It's about refraining from doing, and it's natural for us to think that nothing's going on.
It's like the soil during the winter. It seems like nothing's happening; it's just wasted time. But it's not. My dad is a farmer, and he says that it's good for the soil to get a good solid freeze, because it has the same effect on the soil as it does on our city streets. It loosens it up. It prepares the soil for growth.
That image of loosening the soil for growth has stayed with me during my fasting, solitude, and silence.
In our culture, we're addicted to doing, aren't we? We're addicted to doing and talking and going. We eat and we talk and we work, and we get on our phones and computers and TVs, and then we eat and talk some more. In fasting, solitude, and silence we slow down and put away those activities for a time.
Personally, I believe I'm beginning to sense that my soul is loosening up, and I'm becoming more receptive and sensitive to God.
I often use scripture to help me focus during those times. When my appetite gets my attention during the day while fasting, I might recall the time Jesus said that we don't live by bread alone but on every word of God (Matthew 4:4). Or I might remember the time Jesus said that he had food others didn't know about. His food was doing his Father's will (John 4:34).
And when I practice solitude and silence, my focus is all about resting in God. As my mind wanders I may bring it back by imagining Jesus saying to me, "Come to me, ... and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Sometimes I recite the verse, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).
Or I just tell myself that I have nothing to do right now but rest in God. A lot of times it feels like I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me to just rest in God. Maybe that's why I need it.
I want to encourage you between now and Easter to experiment with some limited fasting as your health allows, or try some periods of solitude and silence. Maybe by putting aside our overfilled lives for a time we will find the soil loosening and our souls becoming more receptive. Let me know how it goes.