Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following a Fast

Now that Lent has ended and we are a full week into the Easter season, I thought I would write a post about my response to my experience these last 7 weeks.
I honestly had no idea what I was expecting out of this Lenten season, and I didn't really have any idea even why I entered into it in the first place. If I'm completely honest and spent some time evaluating my past experiences, I think the times I've had no idea what to expect have blown me away far more than times when I've had expectations .... even if they're low. I was reading in A Million Miles that Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. Because they have low expectations. This has been my philosophy for a long time, that if I have low expectations, then they are either met or exceeded. However, if I have no expectations, it still leaves room for surprise.
So Lent.
Week one = excited about the challenge; even grocery shopping because a life experience; filled with intention and unity with the Israelites (who aren't even involved with Lent)
Week two = accidental cheating, but grace for myself abounded, still excited, but a little less time and will to experiment with new recipes
Week three = becoming more difficult, life gets to be more stressful, or seems that way
Week four = A little better, but still hard. Body has really started rebelling. Lots of sleeping, lots of other parts breaking down and malfunctioning.
Week five = Ready to completely throw in the towel by Saturday (community kept me going. I was moments from quitting completely, but my small group encouraged me to make it the last couple of weeks and found things for me to eat)
Week six = Surviving day by day. Experimenting almost completely ended. Generally not eating or eating the same thing (pasta plain or with pesto) every day. However, the week is marked by a point of brokenness at the Lord's hand. Would I have heard His voice so clearly or so poignantly if I had not been carefully breaking down my physical dependencies through the previous five weeks? Don't think so.
Week seven = Not willing to go out with a bang, trying just to make it through. I really wanted to finish über successful, including a complete fast from everything but water from Good Friday service until Easter. Gave up at dinner on Saturday ... too isolated, too hungry, too irritable. Everyone was suffering, me probably least of all. That's sort of the opposite of the point.

At Easter, it was glorious! Everyone asked me if I just completely feasted and went crazy. But I've been long enough in church to know that that is the best way to make yourself sick after fasting. My stomach had literally grown probably a full size smaller, so even eating my fill of meat was significantly less than it had been. I tried to carefully work myself back into eating my normal diet. But the feast itself wasn't the point, it was the option to feast that was the point. It was knowing I was free. Free to eat anything I wanted. Free to listen to anything I wanted. Free to do anything at all. The metaphor is clear. Christ died to set us free. And Paul says should we sin more so we can be forgiven more? Just because I'm free from my fast, should I eat the whole angel food cake myself? No! I will still get a stomach ache. Just because I'm free from the consequences of sin, should I sleep with every man I desire? No! I will still do serious damage to my body and my spirit.

Now that I've been fast free for a week, I miss it a little already. I eat way more frequently, which Americans will probably say is good, but honestly, it's not necessarily. I eat now because I can and because it's there, not because I actually need it. It's surprising to me that it's only taken a week for me to get back to this point. I will miss the physical plus of losing weight because of the fast, although that was not the point or even a consideration when I chose this fast, or it chose me. I also miss the intention I had. I still feel somehow guilty when I listen to non-Christian music, like I'm still cheating on my fast, like I should still be choosing to listen to my "normal" music. Like I was visiting friends in California for seven weeks and when I return to Indiana, I feel as if I should still be calling my friends in California every day. Although, music is not people and you don't have a relationship with its soul the way you do with peoples'.

Anyway. I am now beginning to wonder how to balance these two extreme worlds - 40 days of very strict fasting with a lifetime of American excess. Where is the balance? I'd like to say I can listen to my body and it will tell me, but I don't think I can trust it. I think it needs some rules, not strict ones, just some boundaries to prevent excess. The balance between two worlds, isn't that really where much of this life is spent?

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