Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lenten Fasts Becoming New Habits

Of course there is always a bright side to Lent. It may seem hard, uncomfortable and not fun but from the perspective of growth it is good.

Lent, and the giving up of things reveals my flesh. It enforces the truth that I am a whiny, selfish, indulgent, and desperate sinner who needs grace. I experienced headaches the first two days of Lent. That physical manifestation of my "fast" helped me to blatantly identify with Christ's sufferings. As I type that I think, "How pompous and trivial -- identify with Christ's sufferings because I'm 'suffering' headaches from caffeine withdrawal. What gall!" But it is in the little steps of obedience that draw me closer to appreciating, admiring and adoring Christ's act of obedience. And somehow, and I believe this is good, I embrace the pain (however minor it truly was in the grand scope of things) and I looked forward to that pounding, grinding tension headache because for me, the physical is more real and tangible than the spiritual. And now the pain is gone. Can I still identify and adore?

I am reading Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures. When studying Ruth Mother aptly and truthfully reports that obedience is only obedience when you are doing something you don't want to do. My headaches are gone now so I don't notice the physical effects of my Lenten fast. I wonder if this will make the purpose of the fast less effective. I get used to the new habit of no coffee and then life goes on per usual. So I suppose now, instead of relying on the physical-ness of Lent I need to dig deeper. I still miss my coffee and when I sniff Dave's brew in the morning I am reminded of what I gave up and why. I ponder why I gave up and that leads me to meditate on all Jesus gave up when He came down to us. I know my identification is small but during these 40 days it is magnified.

The trouble with the fast is it is a new habit and soon I don't even recognize it as a fast - it is my usual, the norm. When I was attempting the No S Diet I plastered No S Diet signs all over the kitchen to remind me that I:
1) Don't Snack
2) Don't Eat Sweets
3) Don't have seconds
4) And only have sweets on days that begin with S (basically the weekends)
Sooner than I anticipated I became oblivious to those signs. I didn't even notice them and sooner than I desired I forgot about the goals of that new diet and was snacking, eating sweets and imbibing on seconds. Something I thought would encourage my new habit got lost in the mundane.

How do I guard my Lenten Fast from this same trap? I suppose that is why the Fast stops on the Sabbath. On Sundays, according to church teachings, Lenten fasting is not required because Sundays are mini-Resurrection celebrations. So I enjoy a cup (or two - or three) on Sunday. When Monday hits the fast starts up again and, even though there is no headache, physically I recall how I enjoyed that java yesterday and the emotions, the identification is fresh and renewed.

So if you are fasting during Lent remember to stop on Sundays so that Monday is a new day to embrace your initial motivation for beginning your fast.

No comments: