This week marks the beginning of Lent. Lent will be from Ash Wednesday, February 22nd, to Holy Saturday, April 7th. This forty day season is a season of fasting that draws us closer to God and commemorates the forty days of fasting and tempting Jesus endured after His baptism and before His ministry.
I am going to be fasting during this time and am encouraging anyone who is up for it to join me. What you fast from is up to you. I encourage everyone to consider doing an actual food fast, such as a juice fast, a Daniel fast, or a fast from one or more of your daily meals. These types of fast are more serious, will seriously disrupt your regular life, and you will be physically weak by the end of it. These factors tend to heighten your awareness of your fast and your dependency on God. Some of you may want to fast from other things, such as Facebook, sweets, music, video-games, etc. However, whatever you do, I encourage you to take this seriously and ask God what He would like you to fast from.
I myself am going to be doing a very different fast.
Around two years ago Dr. Dale Ryan shared how his wife Juanita fasted from shame during Lent. The rationale was simple if unorthodox. Why not give up something that steals joy from your life rather than something that gives joy?
Around that same time I gave up music for Lent. I listen to music all the time so those forty days were deafeningly quiet. However, at the end of that time I felt God say to me, “That was nice but what I really need you to give up is fear.”
God’s call for me to give up fear makes perfect sense. Fear and I are old friends. While I have done some fun and amazing things that other people would be too scared to attempt fear has always been an underlying thread throughout my life. Fear has limited and at times crippled my life. Over the years fear has held me back from many life-giving opportunities, experiences, and relationships. It has taken many forms and hid under many disguises but the bottom line is this…
Fear has held me back from my destiny.
One simple example of this is in regards to worship. While I have helped lead worship in the past, for the last several years I have adamantly refused to lead worship and only rarely performed music in front of other people. Fear of performing in front of other people, fear of being prideful, fear of hypocritically leading worship to a God I feared hated me, fear of not measuring up to other worship leaders, fear of triggering old wounds tied up with performing in order to be loved and many other fears have been the root and rationale of this self-imposed limitation. This is all despite years of musical training on multiple instruments and countless people encouraging me and telling me I have a great singing voice.
Several months ago I started pushing myself to do the things I am scared of and as part of this push I recently auditioned and began helping lead worship at Pihop as a backup vocalist. This and similar experiences have encouraged me to go even farther.
So for this Lent I am taking the words of my professor and the words of God as literally as possible: I am going to attempt to live forty days without fear.
There are a few fears that I have identified that I will very intentionally engage with during this time. Beyond this anytime I identify the feelings of fear or anxiety about something I will make myself do whatever it is I am afraid of.
However, the biggest fear I want to overcome and surrender to the Lord is this: the fear of success.
This might sound odd but when I was deeply marred by self-hatred I believed I did not deserve to have things work out for me. This led to me basically quit life and refuse to attempt things I was certain would simply fail. Over time several subtle self-imposed limitations, such as my refusal to lead worship, have been created. While the self-hatred is for the most part gone some of the old self-sabotaging patterns of fear still exist. God has put gifts in me (just as He has put them in everyone) and many of my friends recognize them, but I am still not really using them because I am unsure of if I am allowed to be amazing.
I am certain I am not alone in this fear and I feel I should share the words of Nelson Mandela on the subject. In his inaugural address in 1994 Mandela said…
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So fast with me. Go on a food fast or fill in your own blank to the phrase “Forty days without (blank).” Or pray for me. Or do both. May my breakthroughs in this area bless others and free me to do what I was made to do. I will be posting regularly on Facebook a variety of thoughts, memes, quotations, and updates as I move forward starting on Ash Wednesday.
*Burial services for fears I have overcome in this season will happen the week following Easter and a memorial service will be held in the form of a community night with food and fellowship. I will be helping lead worship. Message me if you would like to help out.