Learning to Fast
This evening after a full day of cleaning and schoolwork, I needed to put something quick together for dinner. Being that it is Lent, we are of course in a fasting period. In our family, before any fasting period begins, Manny and I consider the rules. Then we decide what we can reasonably do that will be ascetical while not stretching us to the point of breaking.
What do I mean by breaking? For us, we have to consider we have a large family with ages ranging from 18 months to 14. Plus three adults. Two adults who are full-time enrolled in college (me and our daughter Scarlett). And of course, Manny, who works full-time. For me, I have homeschooling and a household to take care of too. So, for us, this means, the fast cannot require me to spend extra time in the kitchen. I don’t have extra time. We also cannot spend extra money on fast-friendly foods (which we think misses the point anyway). And we need to provide meals that are nutritionally healthy and meals that our wide-ranging age of kids will eat.
This year this means our fast is meatless; with several meals during a week that may include items like eggs, milk/dairy, and frozen fish fillets. This means we are still definitely fasting, but I can make some quick meals that everyone will eat. While also covering nutritional needs. One breaking point would be our younger children living off of pb&j sandwiches because they dislike beans so much. I, of course, can’t have that.
When young, most of our kids have had picky palettes that they’ve outgrown. Or at least they’ve grown up enough that they have learned to eat what they are given; even if they dislike it. They’ve learned not to complain. As they’ve grown, they have even learned to be thankful for that plate of beans they don’t really care for. I think this Lent I have heard “thank you” after meals more than previous fasting periods. Which tells me what we are doing is working for our family. If there is one thing I hope my children will learn from using the tool of fasting as Christians, it is gratitude for having their needs met every day.
Gratitude is what came to me today as I tossed together a quick dinner of scrambled eggs, oven-baked fries, and warmed tortillas for a breakfast taco for dinner. Just before putting dinner together I read a heartwrenching article about children in Venezuela dying of malnutrition by the thousands. The article contained photos of dead babies and children with their mothers crying hysterically.
I have to tell you, the sound of breaking eggs never sounded more beautiful to me as they did tonight. I’m not exaggerating here. I can’t say I have ever even noticed the sound too much before. Tonight I did. I heard each of those eggs so loud and clear as I hit each one against my wood countertop.
The sounds of the gentle knock of the egg on wood, the plop into the bowl, and the scrape of each broken shell against the other broken shell as I tossed them aside. Those sounds were loud and clear as I soaked them up with a heart full of gratitude.
I don’t really care for eggs much, but they never looked, sounded or tasted so good as they did tonight. While serving my children and watching them eat I thanked God repeatedly that I had food to cook for them. It was gratitude mixed with sadness as I prayed for those poor parents in Venezuela. Parents who are digging in trash cans for food and watching their children starve to death. Lord, have mercy.
Where was Jesus?
I also have to tell you that this left me reflecting on the whole point of Christian fasting. At times many of us can miss the point; I sure have before. Tonight I thought back to past years of fasting and wondered: ‘Where did children dying of malnutrition fit into my fast?’ ‘Where were my prayers for mothers crying because they cannot breastfeed and have no formula available to purchase for their babies?’ ‘In debates about what is appropriate to eat during the fast, in the noticing of what’s on other’s plates that I thought shouldn’t be, and in the pride for keeping those fasting rules to perfection, where were the hungry whom I was supposed to be feeding?’ ‘Where was Jesus in the least?’
Fasting is a means to an end–the end being growing in love for God and neighbor. Too often it has been too easy to forget that and focus on all the wrong things.
This was originally posted on my blog at Every Home a Monastery.