With Lent season beginning soon, it’s common to hear people discussing what they will fast, or give up, the next couple of months. This scripture from Isaiah 58 has been pressing on our hearts to practice a different kind of fast this season:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.”
Denying ourselves daily pleasures, such as sweets or a favorite cup of coffee, in order to draw closer to God is an important part of the discipline of fasting. But there is also an aspect to fasting that requires doing.
Here are a few ways compassion can be practiced during Lent:
Invite someone over for dinner
Whether it’s a coworker, a family that is new to your community, or a family that’s struggling, set the intention to share a meal with someone once a week for the span of Lent. Make a plan so everyone involved can set that time aside to be present.
Spend time volunteering
Volunteering is one of the easiest ways to get involved in any community. Is there a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or church in your area? Start there! Call to find out what needs they may have, and consider what skills and gifts you have to offer. Do you know how to play an instrument or sport? Can you help someone learn a language? Whatever your skills, you have a gift that can be a blessing to someone else and bridge to meaningful connections.
Make compassionate shopping efforts
Lent is a great time to reflect on how your buying power is an important factor to many of the injustices in our world. Whenever you shop for new clothes, the items you buy are often made by someone else. What we don’t realize is how those products come from places that have forced labor and extremely poor work conditions. When we choose to shop with our conscious, we can influence the industries that impact modern day slavery. If you need to buy clothes, consider only purchasing items made with dignity or from second hand stores.
Practice listening more
The act of listening is so underestimated in our culture. But it’s the only way we can truly connect with one another. Set aside time every day to have intentional conversations with someone you encounter, whether a spouse, child, friend, neighbor, coworker, or someone you’ve only just met. Put down your phone, give a person your attention, and ask meaningful questions. Write down what you learned from those conversations and pray for individuals through out Lent. When the season is over, you can look back on what you learned from those instances, and how God has worked in your relationships with others.
Drawing closer to God in this season, could look like many things. We believe it could look like drawing near to your neighbors.
What are some ways you plan to you practice compassion this Lent season?