As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fasting. It's Not So Bad.

Last Sunday my son casually mentions to me, "it's Pentecost Sunday, today's the last day of Easter."  "No," I thought, "is it over already?" I generally fast throughout the year from many of my most favorite foods, but a few years ago I started living Sundays and feast days as true feasts.  I don't fast from anything but instead I feast, and connect my love of good food to the Lord, and the specialness that certain days and seasons have.  

Before anyone gets concerned let me mention quickly what I mean by fasting.  It is not giving up all food, like when you are asked to fast before bloodwork or an operation (or like a very concerned coworker once thought when I, heavily pregnant, spoke of the fasting I would do for Lent).  Neither is it a "diet", or a way of imposing healthy eating habits for my own purposes. Though it does naturally have positive effects for me and my life, the biggest difference between a fast and a diet for me is the intention.  Diets tend to start and end with me, and are all encompassing. Just a lot of stuff I can't eat so that I can look better. In this model it is interesting to note that my discipline easily wavers, and why shouldn't it? The only person I am concerned with is myself, and why shouldn't I eat that cake if I want it? (It's a valid question).

When I fast however, I pick one thing - a favorite thing - and choose not to eat that thing as a prayer for someone I love.  It's not that I'm fasting from everything at Tim Hortons, for example, just the cookies and doughnuts.  And every time we pull up to Tim's and I order my iced coffee sans treat, I remember the person attached to that prayer. This may seem funny to people reading it, but I LOVE food, like obsessively.  And when I find a favorite food I eat it all the time, I go out of my way to have it as a "treat".  So many of my most favorite treats I now reserve for the sabbath day (sundown Saturday-sundown Sunday) and high feasts of the liturgical year.  This really helps me orient my heart towards the Lord on those days, because it is truly special when I can enjoy my favorite things.  And it helps me have a heart for the people I hold most dear all throughout the week, anytime I feel the urge for one of my favorite things.

So I had been living it up all Easter and not really given much thought to Easter being over until my ten-year-old, clearly more well versed in the church calendar than me, brought it to my attention last week, that ordinary time (and for me, resumed fasting) was around the corner. I made the most of my last day of feasting, and picked up my fasts vigilantly the next day.

As it happens, I have a yelling problem.  As of late it has become out of control, and daily I would go off on a tirade about typical stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom problems on my poor, unsuspecting kids.  It has been like boiling water threatening at any moment to erupt, and I have felt convicted (as most moms would I think) that this is not right - this is not the kind of Mom I want to be.  And it hit me - if I can give up the things I love the most as a sacrifice for the people I love, why couldn't I do the same with this very bad habit? I always thought of fasting as giving up the things I love, but maybe it's more about impulse control.  Not giving in to the immediate desires I have in favour of exercising self control for those I love.  In that respect, it is not only good for me make this fast, it is crucial.  This unique fast from yelling does not postpone the feasting but rather engages me at the very instant I deny myself, by allowing me to preserve the goodness of the moment that is typically destroyed by my lack of patience.

Thinking of it this way has helped me be more conscious of myself.  It has helped me to cry out to Jesus in the moment so that I don't succumb to the very real (and frequent) urge to yell at the kids when I'm frustrated.  And if I forget and do yell in a heated moment, I quickly recall my fast, and do my best to reign myself in.  It has kept it at the forefront of my mind, and while I still experience the typical frustrations that life is bound to throw at me, through fasting God has given me an opportunity not to be lost to them.  He has taken the bad things in my day and made them new by turning them into a provocation, an opportunity to pray for my children, and for myself.

I was sad last Sunday when I realized it was the last day of Easter.  But with this changing of the liturgical season comes grace to live life in the ordinary time.  Feasting, for me, is a great blessing because it helps me focus on the celebration, the joy that is life with Christ.  But too much feasting can put us out of touch with reality and, for me, causes me to forget the reason for the feast.  Fasting and self denial puts me in touch with those around me, which in a very real way points me back to Christ, who is just as near in fasting, in the desert.  I naturally and eagerly await the next feast day.  But until then I am grateful for this time of fasting, of quiet introspection that unites me with my children, my spouse, my family and friends and my God, and which wisely and anticipatingly precedes the joyous celebration that is to come.

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