The Lenten Fast

If you are new to Lent, then after yesterday’s brief treatise on Lent, you might be saying to yourself:

That sounds beautiful and meaningful. But…. why give up stuff for Lent?

It’s the idea of fasting. Fasting usually means giving up food, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that. Lent is a time to fast from something that is near and dear to us – probably a little too near and dear to us. If you’ve ever tried fasting from food, you know that it does funny things to you. For example, being hungry makes me tend to be crabby and irritable. Any kind of suffering does that to us – it shows up who we really are. It brings our sins to the surface. Since Lent is about dealing with our sin, fasting helps us face that sin in ourselves to fight it directly. It’s hard, and sometimes it seems like I make more backward progress than forwards. But if nothing else, being so confronted with our sin makes us more appreciative of what Christ did for us – Like the beautiful story of the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:36-50: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Aren’t you supposed to eat fish on Friday?

There are loads of cool traditions from all over the Christian spectrum on Lenten sacrifice. Eastern Orthodox have a special vegan-like diet. Catholics give up meat from “warm blooded animals” (all but fish) on Friday in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday. I’m sure there are loads more I haven’t even heard of. (Though, nudge nudge, on the Ravelry group for the KAL loads of folks have shared about their traditions, which has been great to learn.)

What about doing things for Lent instead of giving things up?

Another very awesome tradition – engaging in an active discipline to serve or bless others during Lent. Lent is also a great time to start a new habit that you’ve been meaning to get into. For me, though, the tradition of fasting is always spiritually helpful; I am way too attached to my comforts not to benefit from giving them up. So I will probably always do that.

So what are you giving up this year?

Okay. Deep breath. Here it goes.


I’m giving up knitting for lent.

… WHAT?! Are you insane?! Did you fall off the couch and poke the SENSIBLE part of your brain with a DPN? Is your seminary a CRAZY place where they feed you CRAZY juice?!

No, my seminary isn’t crazy, the juice is not drugged, and I hardly ever use DPNs anymore. You don’t need to call my pastor or my therapist or my mother (she knows already). This is something I’ve been thinking and praying about for a very long time – since before Lent last year – and it’s something I think I need to do.

I love knitting a lot. It is one of my favorite things about my life that I get to knit all the time, and the past year and a half of having wool be a primary vocation have been an absolute blast. But I tend to get a little – I mean a lot – obsessive about stuff. I tend to turn things into idols. Then they lose their proper place and become a drain rather than a blessing. I love knitting too much to let that happen to it – and I’ve sensed it happening, little by little, over the years. Besides, my wrists need a break.

p.s. I’m not suggesting anyone else do this. This is just me and my convictions, and I really don’t mean to lord it over anyone or be super-spiritual or some crap like that. Heck, if I was super-spiritual, I wouldn’t need to do this!

What about the Lenten KAL?

Any knitting required of me to do my job, I will do. My obsession with knitting is much more about multi-tasking and product-/task-orientation, not so much about the tactile experience. In fact, I think giving up all active projects will free me up to be 100% devoted to any needs brought up by the KAL.

What about the LOTR KAL?

That will be hard – I’ll miss the 4th, 5th, and 6th clue releases. But again, I’ve been planning to give up knitting for Lent for longer than I knew I’d be doing that project. There’s always next year to be on top of things.

What about your Sock Club thing?

Lent leaves me a little over a week in March and a little under a week in April – plenty of time for the wee socks I have planned for these months. Never mind that March’s socks are still a pair of untouched skeins and half my time is gone.

What about Sundays?

It is a little-known fact that the Sunday in Lent are not a part of Lent. Most people, if they choose to give something up during Lent, will give a thing up continuously from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning, and that’s what I usually do. But it is also traditional to break your fast on Sundays, since they aren’t part of Lent. We do this sometime when our fast is really demanding (remind me to tell you sometime about the year of CSB, or what our concerned friends called “AIDS mush.”)

I’m not sure if I’ll knit on Sundays or not. I suspect not, as I don’t want  Sundays to become a day of cramming in as much knitting as possible, ignoring my family and friends an turning it into an antithesis of Sabbath rest. But that might not happen, so I don’t know. We’ll see.

Won’t you, like… lose your mind?

The worst will be all those hours in class twiddling my thumbs and resisting the urge to repeatedly draw my name in bubble letters. When I told one of my best friends what I was doing, she blinked and said, “… I’m scared.” She knows me well; this is an appropriate response. I expect it to be very difficult. Heck, even Mom tried to talk me out of it at first. But somehow I doubt it will kill me. (Hopefully it won’t kill my husband, or make any of my friends hate me.)

What about other crafts, like crochet?

No crochet (not like crochet is difficult for me to give up – sorry crocheters). Nothing portable. Nothing that will appeal to those same multi-tasking product-oriented tendencies. However, I will be doing some spinning. Spinning is different for me – as I’ve written about before, it actually relaxes me and forces me to slow down. So I don’t have to also give up Monday craft night!

So a new little aspect to the Lenten journey you will read on this blog, which is primarily a blog about knitting… will be reflections on NOT knitting. Normally I wouldn’t advertise my spiritual disciplines to the world, but for those in the Lenten KAL, I at least feel I should share this in the interest of full disclosure. I expect being needle-free for nearly seven weeks will make some waves in my psyche. Maybe I will want to keep all that to myself, but if God gives me anything to share through this experience, I will share. (Besides, Lord knows I will need a little catharsis.) I hope you will share what God’s doing through your Lenten disciplines as well.

For further reading: Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Disciplines is an absolute classic on the subject. He discusses not only fasting in detail, but all of the other traditional disciplines: celebration, prayer, service, silence, etc. being among the others. He also has the sanest rationale for why to do these things: not because we’re super-Christians, but because we’re not. It’s worth re-reading just to get that little truth drummed into my head.

3 thoughts on “The Lenten Fast

  1. Very powerful post, Rebecca. I can easily understand and relate to your fast and the reasons for it. I consider myself obsessed with all things knitterly, and I am keeping watch on its role and priority in my life. That said, ain’t no way I’m giving it up this Lent! lol But I truly look forward to your Lenten postings and reflections, and I empathize completely. I bet it’s kind of like when the power goes out in a storm (or in our case in 2004, for weeks following two successive hurricanes) in that you really don’t understand it’s full, far-reaching effect in your life until you are without it.

    I always struggle to find meaningful fasts and/or disciplines for Lent. I tend to turn it into a self-improvement exercise, intending to all the things I should but don’t, and eliminate all the things I do but shouldn’t. (Sounds very Pauline.) Trouble is, typically any such attempts often are merely tests of will, lacking the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Thus I crash and burn.

    I look forward to the KAL (that’s putting it mildly) and it’s accompanying devotions. I had resisted buying the book to go with it – an attempt at purposeful denunciation of my perfectionist tendencies. But, alas, when I read yesterday’s post with your testimonial about FTLOTW being a “life-changing” book, I caved and ordered both that and TDOS from Amazon, now qualifying for free shipping, at least. I’m a sucker for life-changing books. Now, I realize that just ’cause it had such an impact on you does not necessarily bode the same for me, but it can’t hurt to read it and find out, right?


  2. Haha I understand – as soon as it becomes an exercise in self improvement, it does tend to implode. But then it does what its supposed to do – reveal our weaknesses! At some point, I get reduced to just being on my knees and accepting God’s grace and love, admitting that what He did for me is more powerful than my screwed-up-ness.

    I hope you like Schmemann’s book… my husband read half of it ages ago and couldn’t stand it, then read it again and loved it… it’s heady stuff, and I still don’t understand half of it when I read it now. and yay for free shipping 😉


  3. I am proud of you for doing this! And I think it’s very sweet and honest of you to share all the details of how much you have thought this through. You’ve got yourself covered and it seems you can’t but help learn a lot and THRIVE!!
    I am honestly still struggling with exactly what to fast from….it seems like my journey this year has been learning submission in some new areas, so I don’t know whether to submit a new area to him or what. But that doesn’t work as a fast….what do I do at Easter then? Take the area back again? Dumb. If I go the submission route, my fast won’t end at Easter, but maybe I can celebrate the beginnings of having grown in a new way……still thinking.


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