I don’t normally fast for Lent because something in me — the slightly rebellious side, probably — doesn’t like doing something simply because it’s the religious trend or because I feel like I have to do it. I don’t want my relationship with God to feel forced or pressured to be a certain way. I want to make sure that if I fast, I’m doing it for the right reasons. I found something that is totally worth fasting from, but definitely not something I would choose just on a whim.
Let me give you a little background. I’m not saying that those who fast for Lent every year are not doing it for the right reasons, or that by fasting they are giving in to social pressure. I’m not in any position to assume anything about anyone else’s heart.
All I know is that personally, Lent can make me get so caught up in comparisons of what I’m fasting from with what others are fasting from or how dedicated I am to my fast … the list goes on.
I can’t stand myself when I get that way because I just want it to be about Jesus. He is the most important part of my life, and I need Him to be the one urging me to fast, otherwise my fast becomes purposeless and just another self-centered diet. If I’m going to care for my spiritual well-being I need to spend more time on my relationship with God.
One thing that really submerges me in God’s presence is surfing. I love surfing — in case you haven’t caught on from my previous writings. There is so much freedom in the transference of energy from the ocean to my surfboard and then to me. There is so much joy in gliding on top of something that you know you could pass right through but for a while allows you to glide along its surface. I wonder if Peter felt a bit like that when he walked on water for a few moments before Jesus had to rescue him (Matthew 14:22-32). There is so much peace in being completely surrounded and suspended by an element so foreign and mysterious yet fully part of me.
So, I decided to do something crazy. I decided to fast from surfing this Easter season. I had been noticing how much surfing dominates my free time, conversations and thoughts. Surfing in itself is a wonderful, rejuvenating lifestyle, but it is not the ultimate goal of my existence. It has become such an item of focus in my life that it clouds my view of Jesus … like that late afternoon fog that sometimes rolls off the ocean onto PCH. Just like the effects of that fog, having a cloudy view of Jesus can mean a disastrous collision just waiting to happen.
I started to realize, though, that all those qualities that I valued from surfing were fully represented in my relationship with Jesus. Not only are they matched, but they are exceeded. But there I was, squandering my time on surfing rather than with Him. I was settling for partial freedom, joy and peace instead of the completeness and fullness that I could be experiencing with Christ.
I know God is present in the sport of surfing as I’ve seen him surging in the waves of the ocean and in the hearts of surfers. That’s one of my favorite things about surfing — hanging out with God while interacting with his creation. But sometimes too much of a good thing can become a bad thing when it starts to take precedence over the things that matter most. Instead of being a beneficial accessory to life, those things can become a whirlpool, sucking you deep into darkness. Maybe you have something similar in your own life.
I decided to temporarily remove surfing from its pedestal in my life so I can give Jesus my full attention. If I could surf all day every day, I would, so this goes completely against my normal, selfish tendencies. It kind of sucks, but it’s also really freeing. I was becoming a slave to the waves, now I know they are not worthy of so much of my energy.
There are still a lot of other things clamoring for my attention, but my primary distraction has been displaced for the time being. I’m not looking for balance between my relationship with God and the things that I enjoy. I want Jesus to take precedence in my life above all other things, especially surfing. Regardless of how good certain activities might be, they can never be greater than Him. The creation could never out-do the Creator.
Follow Akela Newman on Twitter: @AkelaRenae