Mary-Kate and I were recently talking about fasting and different strategies for her to be able to observe the rules of fasting during the season of lent. (she has hypoglycemia and is really unable to safely go more than two hours without eating.) This discussion gat me to thinking about fasting and what is really is about.
All of my growing up years I would hear the grown-ups talk about fasting and, of course, food immediately comes to mind. Everywhere that fasting is discussed in literature and in the bible it is always in reference to food. But there is more to fasting than just giving up a certain amount of food a day. What about people such as my daughter or myself, who have medical reasons for not being able to fast from food? There have to be alternatives.
When talking about this with our parish priest he suggested things like giving up the internet and the television. The TV is easy and, if the truth be known, I enjoy the silence and the peace that the lack brings each year. So that is really no hardship. The internet isn't a choice for some. Again, for my daughter, who is in college, that would be like cutting herself off from her professors and a great deal of the resources that they use for her classes. For myself giving up the internet is not viable because it is my connection with my children who are away from home. Write a letter you say! My son who is currently stationed in Iraq hasn't gotten anything that has been sent so far. I'd much rather count on the internet. I know that he has access to a computer once in awhile and can check my blog and know what is going on at home even if I don't know what is going on with him.
But, I digress. Finally a solution came to me about fasting, strangely enough, with an opportunity to fast in a very different way. I was given the chance to fast from my own attitude and selfishness. My son who is in college needed to come home for the weekend and his car is not working. It fell to me to go and get him. All of my family knows how I feel about driving, even if it is just across town, I don't like to do it. While I was getting ready to leave to get him I realized that I could not only do this trip cheerfully and offer it up. But I could fast from the bad feelings that were inside of me. I could just replace those feelings that I used to indulge in, although privately, while I was driving, with positive feelings. Replace them with feelings of anticipation about being able to spend time with my son. With feelings of thankfulness about the fact that I was able to drive when, for instance, my husband is unable to drive such a long distance.
This may sound like a stretch to anyone reading this but just think about it. In the past we were all taught to offer things up. But were we also taught to replace those bad feelings with feelings of thankfulness? With positive feelings? Or did we offer them up to God, keep quiet and not complain, but entertain the bad thoughts and feelings inside of ourselves? Or not entertain bad feelings but not really show a joyful and thankful self while we were busy not complaining?
To me this kind of fasting may be more difficult than fasting from food. I for one can go days without eating more than a full meal. But I do have to admit that I struggle with keeping a joyful and thankful spirit when it comes to having to do something that I truly dislike doing, such as driving a long distance.