Monday, April 17, 2017

Bread and Water: Reflections on Lent

To preface this blog post, I should explain about Lent. Growing up in nondenominational churches, I never practiced it. Then, in college, my resident director introduced me to this period of the church calendar. It is a time to deny oneself, a time to sacrifice in memory of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross to save humankind from their sins. Sometimes people fast from food. Sometimes people fast from a habit. As the Director of Spiritual Formation at my alma mater used to say, it's a time to put things back in their proper perspective. I've fasted from many things since then: radio, Facebook, blogs, eating out, chocolate, gluten. And some years I've fasted from fasting, like during graduate school when I just did not need to add one one thing to my plate.

This year as I thought about Lent, I decided to fast from oatmeal, drinks other than water, and chocolate? Why? I like to find biblical support for my fasts, and since Jesus is the bread of life and living water, I thought making these foods my focus would help me focus on Jesus. I could wax eloquent about how I thought about Jesus when I ate whole wheat muffins for breakfast instead of oatmeal, or toast instead of granola for snack. I could tell you I thought of Jesus every time I drank hot water instead of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea. But that's not the truth.

The truth is that this fast was hard. It felt more like a diet than a spiritual discipline. I found myself thinking more about food because of the extra intentional effort I needed to put into meal prepping (making muffins ahead of time, asking Mom to make more bread, making peanut butter muffins instead of brownies for dessert, etc.). I constantly found things I couldn't eat without breaking my fast: Mom's pancakes, granola bars, Clif bars, coffee cake, etc. Mom went out of her way to accommodate my oatmeal fast particularly, but people at work still offered me chocolate. Bible study offered chocolate cake. The chocolate oatmeal Mom made for herself smelled so good. I often wanted coffee or tea as that final step of a meal. I frequently felt unsatisfied.

So did this fast do what it was supposed to? I believe God used it, but not maybe in the ways I expected. I realized how much I rely on oatmeal, chocolate, and hot drinks as staples of my diet. I recognize the satiation and even comfort they bring. I've gotten more conscious of my nighttime snacking. I've enjoyed trying some new recipes, I guess. Not consuming oatmeal, chocolate, and hot drinks has become habit, part of life. In some ways, though, this is not a positive thing. I find myself wanting 
to continue this fast, to continue to tell myself, "No." To prove my self control. To be ascetic. And that's not godly.

So what now? It's Easter, and He has risen! It's time to reintroduce these foods to my diet, to appreciate them as God-given gifts, to let my taste buds have a resurrection of the pleasure these foods bring. I'll be honest and say that I'll probably struggle with self-control, but I'll work at it. I'll practice self-forgiveness. I'll ask God for forgiveness. After all, that's what Easter is all about.

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