I Didn't Fast During Lent

LENT     noun   I   \'lent\

: a period of 40 days before Easter during which many Christians do not eat certain foods or do certain pleasurable activities as a way of remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ

FAST     verb

  1. to abstain from food
  2. to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods

 

Last November I fasted for 30 days. I felt desperate for God to hear me, see me, change me. I fasted most of my favorite foods: sugar, carbs, choice meats (steak! This Texas girl fasted steak!). I wanted my head clear and my heart transparent before God because it felt all jumbled up. Everything felt busy and foggy. I was getting lost in the hustle of life, marriage, parenting and ministry. Especially ministry. 

The problem is that I love hustle. 

I love waking up early when its dark outside and getting a jump on my day. I feel a thrill when I cross tasks off my To-Do Lists. I get instant relief when I send emails and set up meetings and lead and lead and lead. I love going to bed exhausted. I even began to love sacrificing sleep and rest all in the name of hustle.

But at the root of my hustle was pride. 

Pride that was swelling and growing. It went up as sleep went down. When activity soared, so did my ego. I was so much more productive than everyone else. But if that were true...

...then why did I feel so incredibly empty and miserable?

So I fasted for 30 days. 

God immediately began to slice through my idol of hustle and go directly for the pride that beat beneath. This is nothing that hasn't happened to me before. God has regularly confronted my hustle throughout my life. My need to please. The desire to be chosen for the team because I'm sharp and I'm good and I'm a hustler.

But this time He wasn't telling me to stop all the things.

It surprised me. I expected God to tell me to put on the brakes and take a time out. Instead, He lovingly reminded me that He had called me to this season of ministry. He wanted me doing all the things I was doing. What He didn't want was the hustle to come at the cost of my relationship with Him.

In my pursuit of hustle, I stopped pursuing Him.

He was inviting me back. No guilt. No condemnation. Just an invitation to lay it down and fix my eyes on Him. So I did. 

I continued waking up early. But I read and prayed and journaled. Fixing my eyes on Him. 

I saw God begin to increase my opportunity for ministry. Again, I was surprised. I equated hustle with sin because my hustle had become my idol. God began showing me that what He called me to He would equip me for. My calling wasn't supposed to land my marriage in the toilet or created a strained relationship between me and my daughter. God began filling me up as I daily pursued HIM. 

When I pursued God instead of hustle, I was no longer spent. I was poured out but not empty. 

So this year when Lent hit the calendar, I chose not to fast. Instead of abstaining from food or certain activities (social media, etc.), I decided this season of Lent would be a season of me saying "YES" to whatever opportunities God led me to. 

It was terrifying!

Fasting was SO much easier! Saying "YES" was uncomfortable. Saying "YES" required that I remain in Him or risk a nervous breakdown because life and ministry got BUSIER and BUSIER! 

God began increasing opportunities and my territory to proclaim the great name of Jesus. 

He gave me a spot at a women's conference that Beth Moore hosted in Houston. A conference that both confirmed and encouraged my next step in my calling. (Guess what it is? I am supposed to write. Duh! Why didn't y'all tell me?) 

He called me to speak at a women's conference. TERRIFYING! 

He called me to lead leader's of women's Bible studies all over the region where we live. Our church has 3 campuses, we launched Bible studies on each campus AND a Bible study in a town where we don't even have a campus! WHAT?!?! 280 women signed up for Bible study. 280 women committed to reading God's Word. Nothing transforms people like Jesus. Period.  And nothing reveals Him better than Scripture. Boom! And I got to be part of that. TERRIFYING! 

He called me to go to Vienna, Austria to speak/teach Bible classes and chapel to middle school and high school kids from all over the world. The majority of whom do not believe in Jesus or God.  And I got to be part of that. I've never flown internationally before. I was TERRIFIED! I may have cried and possibly hyperventilated (just a little) on the flight from Houston to Germany. Who's to say for sure what happened. You weren't there. (I'm not a baby, you are.) As my friend Lolly said, "Only you and the flight black box knows what happened for certain."  

So I didn't fast during Lent. But I definitely gave some things up. 

I gave up my comfort and my finances (Austria ain't cheap). I gave up my schedule. I gave up responsibilities that I hoard for myself and I learned how to delegate. "Delegate" is Hebrew for "equipping other people to fulfill their calling". I'm just kidding. But delegating really did equip others for their ministry while freeing me up to fulfill mine. I gave up control over my family. I gave up control over my calendar. I gave up control over my hustle. 

But I did not give up Jesus. 

I saw Him more visibly. Sensed Him more strongly. Heard Him more clearly. 

I realized that what He gave up for us at Easter was His life. So that's what I decided to give up for Lent...my life. 

And you know what I received in return?

Life in abundance. More joy. More hope. More laughter. More love. More and more of Him.

I hope you've learned a ton during Lent this year. 

Happy Easter Week. 

PS - keep going. 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.