Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fasting and Humility

I really could have said that the three themes for fasting this week (instead of gratitude, right submission of authority and humility) are humility, humility, and humility. Because fasting really only boils down to that.

When I first associated with people who fasted regularly (as a non-denominational charismatic) and I started fasting with them, I had no one who taught me what it meant. They only vaguely swept me along in what we did: refrain from eating. Now, by nature I stop eating when I'm stressed. So I vaguely formed myself in fasting with this thought that what God really wanted from me was to inflict some kind of misery upon myself, some kind of deprivation, so that I would get brownie points from God. I didn't articulate it so clearly to myself, but I see now that's what I believed as I tried to imitate the people I saw around me.

The same mentality stayed with me after I became a Catholic and actually started fasting more often.

The fact that I never got cozy with this vague notion seemed both to fit my idea of what fasting is, and fight against it.

And then I had this moment of revelation that involved Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery." I realized that, like the people in her fictitious town, I was trying to make a sacrificial offering of myself to buy something spiritual. The bullhorn of spiritual correction from the Lord to me was that Jesus had already done that, and my attempt to substitute myself for Him for the salvation of the world was prideful, death-wishing spiritual masochism.

Fasting is not about that.

Fasting is about humility.

Fasting is about acknowledging that I am needy and that I cannot fill myself with what I most need; I must receive it. I am a beggar before God, but I am a deeply loved beggar who tends towards deafness when my Lover calls to me. Fasting is not about getting God to hear me. It is about acknowledging that He always hears me... every excuse, every doubt, every over-confident assertion. It is about my coming back to Reality, which is where God dwells.

It is about opening my eyes to see. It is about opening wide my mouth, so that God may fill it.

So let's pray. Let's fast. Let's turn to God and wait for Him to act. Let's let Him change us.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Fasting and Parental Authoriity

The second thing on my mind about Friday's day of fasting is this matter of a check-up, a little moment of reckoning, where my handling of parental authority is concerned.

Becoming a parent is a little bit like becoming a child all over again, or at least it was for me. There's the newness, the excitement, the ease in recognizing the sacredness of it all. But there is also the cluelessness, the hardheadedess, the perfectionism, the heeding of any voice that sounds remotely authoritative. There is so much we have to learn, especially if we did not spend our youth caring for an assortment of babies and children.

Learners though we must be, parents also have authority.

Yesterday as I was walking I witnessed a doe carefully checking out the road before she and her fawn quickly shot across it to the woods on the opposite side. Somehow, the intelligent instinct she demonstrated reminded me of that fact that holy authority must not only lead, but follow. The parent out in front is all the child sees, but that parent must operate not only by knowledge, wisdom and that famous parental "instinct," but also by consciously following the grace of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the example of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that worldly leaders lord it over their subjects, but that it must not be that way with His followers. We lord it over others when we mistake ourselves as the ultimate and others as essentially unequal to us.

So in this fast I feel called to lay my call of authority in my children's lives down before God, to remember again that I follow Him, that He (not my comfort or my ego) is my ultimate desire for myself and for them. I can do what I can do, and I cannot do what I cannot do. And 99.9% of the time, I'm a bit murky on exactly what falls into which of those two categories. That's why I must follow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Few Thoughts about Fasting and Gratitude

Some Encounter. parents are embarking on a day of prayer and fasting for our families, and in light of that I'm sharing a few thoughts on fasting and gratitude.

Someone recently sent me this:

And ain't that the truth. There's our ideal world of how we think we'd like life to be, and then there's reality. Reality is messy because nature is messy, and reality is also messy because we are sinners in a sinful world. For 20 years it has blown my mind to contemplate the Incarnation for this very reason. God came to live in the midst of our messy reality, and in doing so, He redeemed it. It's amazing.

The gratitude I feel called to in this fast is the gratitude that looks at messy reality and accepts it. With a smile. And not because I'm some stupid Pollyanna or Stepford Wife that keeps smiling in the face of the craptitude of life. But because God proved His love for us in the person of Jesus Christ, who was born homeless and poor, whom others judged by their standards, and who died a violent death for no other reason than my eternal benefit. My life ain't perfect. I bear scars, my kids sin, my marriage is not St. Teresa's 7th mansion. God knows it. I know it. I accept it. And I thank God for all He does in my life, not in spite of the fact that I am a mess, but because of it.