Day 1 Agenda: Breakfast, Breakfast, Fast Fast, Break Fast
As a follow up to a post from earlier this month on fasting, here are some musings from my first attempt this Lenten season. I'm impelled to share to try to start an honest conversation on the subject, since it's such an incredibly fundamental spiritual discipline, and yet there is almost no sharing on the subject, because:
1) We have decided it is so antithetical to our otherwise me-first mentalities that we just don't do it,
2) We associate it with way-out-there ascetics and don't see its relevance to our lives (or don't want others to think we're way-out-there ourselves), and/or
3) We're afraid to be seen as flaunting how spiritually awesome we are (never mind that you can have just as much pride and self-righteousness about how you don't tell others than if you do tell others).
And, also, I'm reminded about a discussion I led last year in our couples' Bible study at church about having morning devotional times, and one participant thanked me for choosing the topic, since it is also an incredibly fundamental spiritual discipline, and yet there is almost no sharing on the subject. So, again, here's my story, and hopefully over the next few weeks, I'll share some more as I try to integrate fasting, one time a week, into my life this Lenten season.
First of all, let me note that this first fast was a pretty lame one. I had breakfast, and then my first work meeting was a breakfast meeting. So skipping lunch didn't really mean missing a meal, since I'd already had two meals by 9 o'clock. In other words, it was a fast fast, and by dinner I broke the fast having gone without food for not a very earth-shattering number of hours.
Furthermore, skipping lunch on a work day didn't make for much physical or psychic space to use that time and that food-deprived state for much spiritual good. I've become very compartmentalized in my schedule - I kind of have to, in order to juggle work and family and church and civics and self - and so being in my office, it was hard to not be in work mode.
That said, there's good in mixing up the times and places, to remember that one can and should connect with God anywhere and anytime. There's good in being reminded in a place of busyness and professionalism that this significant part of me also belongs to my Maker. And there's good in being able to intersperse in a long spell of work assignments some thoughts and meditations about other, weighty matters. Likely I'll mix up my fasts for this very reason: to practice being still in different places and at different times.
As for what I did re-allocate my thoughts to, pathetically, a lot of it was about how hungry I was. But even this can be used for good: however pitifully short my hunger spell was, it's at least some bridge to the world so many in this world face on a daily, even perpetual basis. And so I found myself inching closer, though still far away, to a place of solidarity with those around me and around the world who are physically hungry.
I also contemplated the empty feeling in my belly as a metaphor for being emptied so I could be filled up by weightier things. How willing am I to be emptied of that which does not eternally satisfy, in order to partake of that which does? Given how quickly I fill my belly, my brain, and my schedule with things just for the sake of being filled, I must not be very willing. And so being physically hungry for a short spell did in fact help me to be more spiritually hungry.
On a related note, skipping a meal makes me crabby, makes my head ache, and makes it hard to concentrate. This is what happens when your blood sugar drops, and there is nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with needing to eat. But - and I realize many people have taken this to an extreme, leading to disordered eating and irreparable physical and psychological harm - it is good to learn to master your body, to be able to not always be beholden to the carnal and physical, to have enough self-control that eating enough doesn't have to be a prerequisite to being nice to others.
There is so much more to fasting as it relates to our relationship to God and to His work than I covered in this first, shallow attempt of this Lenten season; quite frankly, anyone else's fasting experience would have had to have been more deep and meaningful than this one of mine. But I was happy to have made this effort, however pathetic it was. And I am happy to share it in this space, in the hopes that it encourages others, pulls the curtain away on some of the mystery, and brings honor to the God who invites us to fast and who invites us into deeper relationship with Him.