I have to admit: I am afraid of fasting. So, a few nights ago, when it was time to choose another book for my nighttime reading, and I was choosing between these two that are in queue for 2018, it did not take long for me to decide.
Part of my fear stems from baggage from my past related to food, but I am realizing these days that I've allowed a disproportionate discomfort with fasting to become part of my identity. I worry so much about how my body and mind will respond that not once do I remember fasting without substantial inner turmoil and resistance.
In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin said, "There's a real difference between I don't and I can't."
Yesterday morning, I was up early to exercise and felt a gentle nudge to fast as I listened to Lauren Daigle's music. It was not a mean God saying, You must, but rather a kind God saying, You can. I could differentiate in my spirit, even then, that it wasn't God trying to take something away, but God offering to give me sufficiency and strength.
In my Scripture reading this week, I've been swimming in this text:
With the idea to fast, it was as if God was giving me a way to be weak, to practice not getting what I want, and to experience more of him being strong on my behalf.
Except I didn't believe I could do it. And evidently, I wasn't willing to try. Later in the day, as the kids and I I worked on their memory work from Genesis 3, I could identify with how Adam and Eve must have felt sewing figs together to cover their failure to trust. I also imagined myself with Jesus in the garden, on that horrible lonely night before his death. I thought of how he doubted his ability to go through with what was being asked of him, how he asked if there was another way, and how, at the end, he gave in and surrendered his will to the One his soul trusted above all. He modeled for us that life is born out of death.
These are nice things to ponder after the fact, but for most of the day yesterday, "my mind was a pinball machine of exasperation with myself, and all of life," as Anne Lamott describes in Some Assembly Required.
Late last night, I was finally able to talk to TJ about my feelings from the day and the burden I had carried from not trusting that God could hold me through some hours with no food. It was a relief to talk, to confess, to be heard. There was still no sense of a mean God or a mad God, and I ended the day encouraged to try again, to give God a chance.
I am taking to heart the advice I gave to Bauer in a different conversation yesterday, something Gretchen Rubin admonishes herself to do and writes about in Happier at Home, which is to "Experience the experience." So this morning, I didn't eat a thing, and I didn't die. I still could use my body to walk and my brain to write. And though I was afraid of how I would feel, I faced my fear in a small way with God's help, and what felt the best is knowing that I was able to yield. Like Paul said elsewhere in 2 Corinthians, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
There will be more ways to practice with Lent ahead, and more words to feed on. Thanks be to God.
The ironic thing is, even Mr. Supper of the Lamb himself must think on these things from time to time. In the introduction to Robert Farrar Capon's book, Deborah Madison says of him, "His is a voice that speaks for passion and pleasure, and if balance need be restored, he is not shy to advocate fasting or easing up on breakfast..." Of course, the words I needed to hear would find me no matter which book I chose.