March 28, 2018
When we lived in South Korea, we were given Korean names by our Teaching Manager, a dear lady who was our Korean "mother". Joanne named me "시은", pronounced shee-uhn, which she told me means "she gives grace". She told me that she thought this name was fitting for me because she saw me giving grace to my students and to others around me.
I was so honored by my Korean name, so gratified that my name communicated something good about the way I treated other people.
It's been almost 6 years now since we returned to the States from living in South Korea, and I have to be honest, I don't feel like I've lived up to my name. I'm not sure that I ever really lived up to it. I can't help but feel, if I'm really honest with myself, that my default mode of operation is judgmental and critical. Sure, you may never hear me say terrible things—unless you're my husband, then you get the full force of my sin—but I'm certainly judging you in my head.
This year for Lent I was struggling to think of what to fast from. I started praying about it (which is always dangerous because we serve a God who answers prayers) and I quickly felt prompted to fast from “criticism”. I remember feeling taken aback. What an unconventional, unquantifiable thing to fast from! Sugar, now that’s a practical thing to fast from, perhaps not always easy to give up sugar, but certainly easy to track how well you’re doing in the fast.
My aversion to fasting from criticism was my first clue that it was exactly what I needed to give up. After a few more days of mulling it over, I chose to try and fast from criticism for Lent. This has proved indeed to be a difficult fast. I find myself breaking fast on most days, being harsh, judgmental, and downright unkind—especially to John. Why is it that the people we love the most we tend to hurt the most? Why do I lose my patience the easiest with the person I care for the very most?
This fast from criticism has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever attempted, and I’m far from accomplishing it. And I think that’s the point. One of my priests said something recently about Lent that I so resonate with. He said, “The best thing about failing our fasts is that it reveals our need for Jesus. We really do need Him.” Lent puts our dependence on Jesus at the forefront of our minds as we are reminded of our mortality and our sinful nature. And fasting from criticism has made me so self-aware about how often and how much I practice criticism and judgment.
This is a Lenten fast that I don’t want to break. Come Easter Sunday I don’t plan to feast on critical thoughts. I want to keep pursuing giving grace and living up to 시은. I know I will continue to fail and my hope is that my pursuit and failure will increase my dependency on Christ. I created the print below as a visual reminder of my fast. Perhaps you need this reminder also. Feel free to download it, print it out, and hang it in a place where you’ll see it regularly.