Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fasting, Simplicity, and Solidarity

Lent began on Wednesday. I was blessed to be a part of a fabulous Ash Wednesday service at Ebenezer AME, hosted by our Ecumenical Association. I really appreciate the shared ministry and shared witness of our Ecumenical Association;I am grateful to God for this lay led group. It is fabulous.

Ray and I often share similar or overlapping spiritual commitments during Lent. Last year, when he gave up TV, I mostly gave it up with him. Although it was by default rather than design, it was still a tremendous blessing. We spent many extra hours just sitting and talking.

This year, we have decided to do a financial fast of sorts. We are trying to live on the equivalent of minimum wage. Our hope is that we will experience a deeper sense of what it is to fully rely on God for our provision, that we will live in solidarity with those who have no choice but to live on minimum wage, that we will learn more about how to sacrifice and submit ourselves to God's will through the overlapping disciplines of simplicity and fasting.

Several folks have asked how exactly we figure out the nuts and bolts of doing this. We did our best to calculate the monthly income of earning $6.15/hour for 40 hours and then 10 hours of overtime at $9.22. (I can tell you that if I lived in Cecil County and worked at minimum wage, I'd probably be commuting over the state line to Delaware, where they earn $7.15! But that is not part of our assumption.)

Assuming one of us works and the other takes care of the kids, we figured that after housing and other living expenses, $100 per week for food, gas, and other expenses would be our plan.

Although I do try to live by the discipline of simplicity in general, having my spending controlled by these parameters is a different experience. We are writing down every cent we spend. Spending 75 cents on some small snack at a convenience store seems ridiculous. Making as much as possible from scratch, and stretching our food to put off grocery shopping an extra day or two has gone to a whole new level in our house.

You know what? Right now, it's sort of fun. It is a challenge that after 3 whole days, we have been able to meet. Rather than go out for lunch with some folks from church, I made chicken salad, and we ate at home. And I saved the broth from cooking the chicken, which will become soup for dinner tonight.

This makes me question whether there is any solidarity or shared suffering happening. But I know that one of the blessings of simplicity is the joy of realizing how little material needs I truly have, and how much God really provides if I pay attention. So right now, that blessing seems to be happening.

One of the goals of spiritual practices during Lent is to begin habits that will be a part of our journey long after Lent is over. Although I don't expect to live on $100/week forever, I do hope that this fast, and our desire to live more deeply into the practices of simplicity, submission, solidarity will find fertile soil in our lives.

I'll let you know how it goes after more than 3 days have passed!

In the meantime, I invite you to read this Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent. This comes from the United Methodist Book of Worship. It is something that I find to be a blessing every year to review and reflect upon.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church
that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.
In this way the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness
proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent:
by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now bow before our Creator and Redeemer.

1 comment:

  1. I like what you and your husband are doing for Lent. I will be interested to read more about it.