46 days.

1,104 hours.

66,240 minutes.

397,4400 seconds.

This is how long I am fasting from desserts and sweets.

The fast began on Wednesday — Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is observed in many Christian traditions over the course of the six weeks leading up to Easter.

The six weeks set apart time where people in humility, reflection, and repentance draw close to God through fasting.

People don’t fast just for the sake of fasting. But fast from anything that distracts a person from focusing on God. Whatever a person fasts from — whether food, social media, or hitting the snooze button — a person replaces the void with time with Jesus.

In the past I have fasted from social media, attempted to fast from comparing myself to other people (that’s a tough one), and even gave up make-up during my sophomore year of college. This year I decided to fast from desserts and sweet treats.

If you know me well, you will know that I was born with a hankering for anything sweet. Ice cream is one of my favorite foods, and I basically keep the candy companies in business.

But my love for sweets had moved from a place of enjoyment and celebration to becoming the unhealthy antidote for my need of comfort in more ways than one.

I work at a middle school in Lancaster city in the emotional support room. My role has its own unique stresses, and two weeks ago I found myself making a quick pit stop at my staff mailbox where I keep a bag of chocolates that I use for my after-school tutoring group.

As I reached for a piece of chocolate and began to unwrap it, I sensed Jesus saying: What you need in these moments is to remember that I am with you.

As the taste of chocolate left my tastebuds, I realized that in moments when I need to pray and ask for Jesus’ help, comfort, or strength, I all too often reach for a sweet thinking it will somehow quickly change my reality. I made the decision that I would fast from desserts and sweet treats as a way to refocus on Jesus’ presence with me in every moment and to rely on Jesus for strength during stress.

My husband, Micah, is amazing and took me out to Sweet Frog on Fat Tuesday where I could savor my last treat until Easter. I’m getting ready to wrap up my first week of my Lenten fast, and I have already learned a few things:

  1. I can indeed live without desserts, … but it hasn’t been easy.
  2. Don’t scroll through Instagram often because you will see countless pictures of scrumptious looking desserts.
  3. But even more important, I am settling into a deeper awareness of how situations and experiences throughout my day impact me and the healthiest thing I can do is pray “Jesus help me.” “Jesus give me strength.” “Jesus, thank you for. …”

You and I were never meant to go through hard or wonderful things by ourselves. We were created to know and be known, and the greatest relationship we can have is to know and be known by God. When I try and solve or deal with stress by clenching my fists together and attempting to solve it with my own strength, I will make an idol of sweets and run for the container of ice cream or the bag of chocolates.

What I need the most during Lent is to come face to face with my longing and need for Jesus to rescue me and redeem me. No chocolate or extra dose of brownies will accomplish this.

I don’t think my relationship with dessert and chocolate is completely over, as I have already communicated with Micah that I would enjoy a chocolate peanut butter egg on Easter to break my fast.

But I am grateful for the reminder of my utter dependence on Jesus.

Maybe desserts or chocolate isn’t your idol. Maybe you need to fast from social media, alcohol, caffeine, going to T.J. Maxx, or packing your calendar with things to do. Maybe instead of taking away something and fasting, you need to add something to your life. Maybe it is spending time in prayer, journaling, serving your neighbors, or counting reasons you’re thankful.

Whatever it might be, it isn’t too late to step away and create space for you to pursue God.

So, if we are together for dinner I will kindly pass on the dessert.

Not because you haven’t made something delicious, but because dessert and I need a bit of break so I can get back to my true source of comfort and strength.

But trust me, Easter is coming, and the celebration will be so much sweeter this year.

Originally published 2017 in Heather’s blog, Savoring Pace.

Heather Brickner
Heather Brickner lives in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Micah, and their son, Lucas. Heather is lead pastor of Branch & Vine and serves on the ministry leadership team of the Atlantic Conference. A house full of laughter, Saturday morning pancakes at home, and devouring a good book are a few ways Heather savors life.

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