The first week of my Lent ‘fast’ has gone by and I have learned just a little bit about how difficult it is as a spiritual discipline to quiet myself. However, I am also learning how rewarding it is to listen as opposed to being quick to share and express. As I continually refine what exactly it is I am fasting from, I am continually trying to discern what it is and what it isn’t that I am trying to achieve/learn.
What I basically have it down to as of now is that I am fasting from any ” unwholesome talk” that Paul describes in Ephesians 4:29. This includes anything that does not intentionally and deliberately ” build others up;” like meandering chit chat or dangerous gossip. I welcome listening to others’ small talk, but I am refraining from it myself.
‘Thank you,’ I’m sorry,’ and ‘I love you’ all fall within these bounds, as well as various other ways of building others up. I break my silence to comment on theological insight I have gained or spiritually encouraging language aimed at edifying others. Sometimes I even make small talk with obviously downtrodden folk I bump into on the street (like the man begging for change outside Borders yesterday, I couldn’t offer change, but I knew he enjoyed a few words from a concerned neighbor). Also, when I saw a housemate walking around the house dejectedly, I did not feel guilty at all for asking what was on their mind.
All this is to say that I continue to discern what it is that I am abiding by for these 40 days. Unfortunately, answers are not always black and white; God doesn’t just whisper in my ear when I can and cannot talk. I think He trusts me to figure out some of it on my own and learn as I discover each day new ways to grow spiritually from my observance. Just as my housemates are giving up refined sugar to look at how they could eat better and pay closer attention to nutrition, I am “giving up the use of [my] voice (as the Borders café employee described it to her coworker after I flashed my notebook, ordering a mocha)” to learn the ways in which I use my voice to excess. If I stress the legalistic framework of my fast and lose the focus on the spirit of the fast, I miss the point and waste 40 days.