The problem when you share your spiritual devotions plans is that then people can comment on your spiritual devotions plans. Perhaps this is why Jesus teaches us to pray in secret, behind a closed door, where no one can see (or comment)…
I struggle with this a bit because part of what I want to do with this Eating Liturgically thing is open up dialogue. I want to invite people to think about this stuff, and part of that is sharing what I’m doing. I think in my ideal scenario, it would be an “I’m doing this, and you don’t have to agree with me, but what do you think about your own way you might use your eating to teach/observe the liturgical calendar/enhance your prayer life/discover new things?”
As long as I seem upbeat and confident, that’s generally how things go.
But this past week was a hard, intense, week in my personal and work life, and I did not fast. I mean, I set out each day intending to fast and then did not fast. That internal struggle between intention and action, for me that’s a lot of what Lent becomes, and sitting with that, praying over that, it’s part of the preparation for Easter.
Last night someone asked me how my Lenten fasting was going. I’d shared the specifics with her because she’d asked me at the end of Epiphany what I was planning to do. When I shared that in general things were going well, but last week I hadn’t been able to keep up with it, she said, “do you think that maybe…?” and proceeded to imply that maybe being miserable by not eating isn’t what God intends for me and perhaps I”m being too literal on what “fasting for Lent” is.
Since I was actually fasting that day, I was aware of my quickness to blunt communication and decided not to continue the conversation – I took a deep breath and said “it’s a time of discovery, that’s for sure!”
But I woke up with her words in my head this morning. If we were talking right now, after some time of reflection, I’d answer this: that no I don’t think I’m being too literal, I’m simply fasting in a way that makes me notice the emptiness, the space. There are many ways to do that, but I’m finding not eating for most of the day to be a good way to get there.
I’d also disagree with the “miserable” assessment. Fasting makes me…sharper. And sometimes that sharpness isn’t pleasant. But sometimes it’s wonderful – the world seems crisp and open and light and my prayer seems deep and calm and less wordy and more listening. Last week was a hard week, and it made it hard to fast…but the fast itself wasn’t too hard on its own.
And then I’d apologize – that my reaction in that first moment was to be defensive. I bristle when people offer what they think “God intends for me” in general, and certainly even more so when I’m a little hungry and a lot frustrated at my not having the discipline to fast for a week. I’d ask her forgiveness, and then ask if we could talk some more.
For myself, I think there’s a lesson here. That when people ask “how my fast is going” I should probably not answer that in a “good” or “bad” manner – because “good” shuts down their feeling they can respond and “bad” opens up invitations for “do you think that maybe…?” which I can’t handle well in the moment. I’m going to try something like, “it’s been interesting – how is your Lent going?”