Gratitude, Communication and Fasting

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I’m a Confirmation Mentor this year – and I’m really enjoying my Men-tee very much.  She’s a whip-smart, very mature, confident 14-year old girl, and unlike past years where I felt more like a teacher/guide, this year feels much more like a conversation/discovery when we meet.

We met last weekend, and talked about Lent and Fasting and what we were “giving up”.  I was surprised how much I hadn’t reflected, yet, even though I’d been doing a pretty radical change-up of my normal eating pattern.  (Shifted from my Fierce hours to only eating between 5:30pm and 7:30pm, my Friday Fast routine done every day for Lent.)

Two main things came up for me:

First, gratitude.  I am so very lucky.  I am *choosing* not to eat and when I am ready to eat, there is so much healthy, delicious, safe, nutritious food available to me.  In this time where I am eating less, I am so much more aware of all the food around me.  I am unreasonably, irrationally, blessed when others are not.

My companion suggested I move on this realization and donate to a food pantry, or serve at a soup kitchen.  She is not wrong-  these are good, consistent, actions to take with this realization – but I actually feel like i need to go further.  Those things seem too easy.  I don’t want to just redistribute my wealth, I want to break down the system that gives me food and places others in food deserts, that has me with too many options and others waiting days for their next meals.  No, I don’t know how to do that, but it’s where I am.

Second, communication.  I am prone to hangriness.  As my blood sugar dips, I am quicker to anger, quicker to no-buffer comments, quicker to respond without care.  It’s one thing to only do that once a week, but when I’m fasting daily, I can’t live like that and be a member of society, let alone love my neighbor.

So I have been very, very, very, very, very careful with what’s coming out of my mouth, and the tone with which it is being spoken.  With this extreme care, I’ve realized two things.

  • With great care comes great honesty. I am being a bit blunter.  I am saying what I think, standing up for myself more, both in the good and the bad.  “I LOVE YOU,” I’ll say to my family, and mean it so much.  “I do not want to do this,” I’ll say to someone who asks me to volunteer, and they look surprised at the simple “no” without explanation or guilt. This is freeing, and a little terrifying.  Sometimes I am biting my tongue because what I would say is not going to help sow peace and calm, and in my care I realize this is not the time for those words.
  • I talk about myself too much.  If someone shares something, my first instinct is to relate back a connected story from my own life experience.  It didn’t seem weird before – but now, in this kind of raw place, it seems rather rude.  I’m trying to, instead, follow up with a comment or question about what that person just shared with me.  It’s…new.  And I think it’s love – it’s saying, “I can listen. I want to know more about you, so I can love you better.”

To quote my friend, “it’s not bad to have to practice being nice to people.”

I went on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with my Confirmand’s mother (who also happens to be my Rector) two years ago.  We were on the bus going from one place to another, and she turned to me and said, “I love Lent.  It’s such a time of space and discovery.” and I was like “whatever, crazy lady.” because for me, Lent had always been a time of cold grey weather and guilt and more work to prepare for Easter.

But this year…Fasting has made it feel different.  I’m not ready to declare my adoration of Lent yet, but this is a very different Lent for me.  Part of what I respond to in Eating Liturgically is how a deliberate physical choice creates the opportunity for intentional spiritual discovery.

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