I am writing this on a fast day. And not just any fast, but a fast from coffee.
Fasting is a beautiful thing when I sit and think about it theologically. It makes for good writing when I talk about it on here. But I woke up this morning, realized I would not be doing my favorite morning past time, and I decided this about fasting:
I don’t like it at all. In fact, I would say this is the hardest discipline for me. I connect in some pretty deep ways with thing like solitude, silence, prayer, etc. but fasting just makes me recoil.
I make excuses why I should cheat a little. I figure out ways to make it as easy as possible. I rearrange days so I can keep it from inconveniencing me. I decide I am just going to skip out on it as soon as I wake up and know I am going to have to actually do it.
This past week was especially bad in the self-pity department. I was not eating during daylight hours and everyone in my family got sick. So I was going to be at home taking care of everyone and not eating. And here is what happened:
I survived…pretty easily. I had moments where I was not excited about it, but at the end of the day it was not a big deal at all.
Nor did God rip open the sky and reveal all the secrets of the universe to me. Occasionally, when I fast I expect a super spiritual breakthrough to happen. As if my missing a couple of meals will alter the course of the human race in some way.
It was an ordinary, average experience that I went through without a hitch.
But in the ordinary-ness of the fast, I learned something ordinary that I think ends up being very significant.
I can do without.
I get in the habit of assuming there are certain things I must have. These can take on all forms. Sometimes they are silly things like technology or books. Other times they hit a little closer to home – validation from someone, a sense of purpose in what I am doing, etc. In the moment, it seems as if I do not get these things, life may not go on.
But fasting teaches me, I can do without.
This is one of the beauties of the simplicity of fasting. In a simple act of not eating, I realize there are few things in life I truly have to have. Food is essential to life. Without food, there is no life. But on occasion, I can do without. I can get by even without one of the basic necessities of existence.
My hope for Lent is that I can live out of a place where I understand, at a deep level, I can do without.