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A Message from Duncan- February 26, 2024

A Message from Duncan- February 26, 2024

Fast: It’s not just another word for ‘quick’.

Isn’t it weird how a word that is so full of energy and urgency can also be slow and withdrawn?  I’m no language scholar, and so I have no idea how this word came to have two opposite meanings.  I guess I could do some research online into the origins of the word but if I did that there’d be nothing for you to do after you’ve finished this edition of the newsletter.  I’ve just planned your day.  You’re welcome!

Fast.  It really is a weird word.  Fastball; fast car; ‘fast and loose’; but also ‘fast from chocolate and gossip’.  What’s up with the word ‘fast’?

Much as I would like to write about fast cars (seriously, I’d love to churn out a few paragraphs about this season’s new Formula One cars), my job dictates that it’s the other kind of fast that I should write about in Lent.  So, in the run up to Easter, I’m going to devote my column to different aspects of fasting.  You know, the self-denial kind of fast.

First, I’d like you to have a think about your personality.  Maybe you can draw on your experience of the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs to help you in this.  You see, there are two kinds of spiritual practices or disciplines.  You probably find one of these types more natural and easy than the other.  Someone else, with a different personality, will find the other kind more natural.

The great writer on prayer and spirituality, Richard Foster, separates the classic Christian disciplines into a bucket labelled ‘Abstinence’ and one named ‘Engagement’.

In the Abstinence bucket swim things like simplicity, solitude, submission, and, yes, fasting.  These are the practices that involve the removal of things – noise, company, pleasures, possessions, food.

Sloshing around in the Engagement bucket are the practices that you add on or take up.  They are the opposite of abstinence.  They include prayer, confession, celebration, worship, study, guidance, meditation, and service.

So, which type of spiritual discipline do you find harder – the practices of Engagement or those of Abstinence?  If you are a lively person who finds it hard to sit still or be alone, or silent, then you will find the abstinence bucket tricky.  A word to describe this type of person is an ‘activist’.  And, if you find it hard to get off the couch, be active, and relate wholeheartedly to people and projects outside yourself, then the engagement bucket is not very appealing.  If this is you, you can be described as a ‘contemplative’.

Often we associate Lent with giving things up.  This probably means that contemplatives find Lent easier, as they are more comfortable withdrawing from pleasures and senses than activists are.  So, maybe, to correct the imbalance, we need to give an equal profile to the Lenen practices of service, worship, study, prayer, and meditation.

What does this mean?  Well, maybe for Lent you should dip into the bucket that you find less attractive.  It’s likely that here is where great riches lie.

For now, though, as I’m starting down this series on the topic of fasting, we’re well and truly focused on a practice of abstinence.  If that is hard for you, sorry!

In my next article I’ll write about the purpose of fasting.