First Friday and Saturday

When I cook, I eat. Actually, that really should say “while I cook, I eat”. One of the more unusual habits I’ve had to break, is the one of constantly tasting food I’m making, eating scraps, and just plain old eating a bit here, a spoonful there, because I quite like food. In the past two days I have done four things that all potentially carried challenges in terms of observing my fast. Bottling beer, playing hockey, grocery shopping, and preparing a lot of food today. But the food prep was the only really difficult one, and it was mainly a mental problem.

Food Prep

I needed to go bottle more of my beer at Amsterdam (and will need to go back one more time to finish up; the growler-filler is really cool, but can be finicky). I assumed that a few hours on my feet would exhaust me, but it wasn’t so. In fact, I felt totally fine. I also thought that playing hockey last night might not happen, and had told the guys I would be a game-time decision. Not only did I play the whole game (90 minutes) but I got a pair of goals (and I don’t think they were just being nice to me). By the mid-way point of the game my shifts were getting shorter, and I could feel my energy going, but, again, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. To be fair, I’m still very early in the fast, and I’m also still taking in an okay amount of calories.

Grocery shopping without buying more than I need is hard enough for me, again, because of that whole really really liking food, and it’s even worse if it’s even approaching a normal mealtime. The slightest hunger pangs and I find myself buying every delicious looking thing I see. This morning while Erika worked, I took the kids to Loblaws, and did the “big” shop for the week.  The bill certainly wasn’t small, but I don’t think I bought a single thing that we didn’t need for meals this week. In addition to that, I talked a lot with Ben about being thankful for food, and different aspects of that.

The trouble started when I got home and went to make the sauce for the lasagne I was going to bake for dinner. Instinctively as I was chopping celery, I grabbed the root-end and nearly had it in my mouth, before I put it back down. Then I realized how much that action is part of my muscle-memory for food prep. It happens as quickly as my left hand shapes itself to hold the food, and my right one grips the blade of my knife. Or the way I hook my foot under the kick of the cabinets when I reach for something. Once the sauce was simmering, I came to appreciate how often I taste and adjust things. As I deglazed the pan, I reached for a spoon to have on hand to drip sauce onto, then realized what I was doing and stopped. Except then I kept looking around to see where I’d left it. In my mind it just had to be there, because it was *always* there.

And this is exactly what a lenten fast is about. Things get pretty heavy spiritually from this point on. I’d love it for you all to keep reading, but won’t be offended if you punch-out now.

Through a lot of conversations I’ve been reminded that a lot of people have a different take on Lent than I do. Many people will tell you they’re giving up something for Lent, as an act of thanksgiving or remembrance or penitence.  While they wouldn’t necessarily put it this way, they know that Easter is the time we remember Jesus dying for us, so in an act of penitence, they minorly inconvenience themselves for 40 days. “Hey Jesus, thanks for that whole terrible-suffering-and-death bit. I really appreciate it. And to show you just how much it meant to me, I’m not going to eat chocolate for a month and a bit. See? I’m suffering too”

Happy Jesus

“Aweome, bro. Love that bumper-sticker you’ve got too!”

The Bible is pretty clear, if you really are thankful for what Jesus did, you need to give up more than just your daily coffee for 40 days. You need to give up you life, and in giving it up, you will find a new one. But that’s for a different post.

The nature of my Lenten fast is not an act of penitence. One of the better analogies I’ve heard is that it’s like physical training, except it’s not physical, it’s spiritual.

Yes, I would recommend keeping your spiritual “fitness” up the whole year round. Just like I would physical fitness. But a) most people don’t and b) even if you do, spending a period of concerted effort training for a big event (say, a marathon* or the finals of your hockey league) will leave you more fit after the event than before it.

Easter is the playoffs. I guess you could say Christmas is the home-opener.

So we train.

And how does that work? Well, the main thing most Christians would do, would be to spend more time in prayer, more time studying the Bible, and more time showing God’s love to everyone around them during Lent (or Advent for Chistmas). The difficulty, today maybe more than ever, is remembering to do it. And so we fast, whether from food, or a “vice”, or something else.

Why?

Because then when we go to do the thing we are fasting from, we remember to redirect our energy into spiritual training. So when I’m hungry, I pray for people who will still be hungry when I start eating again in 36 days. When I stop myself from eating a food scrap, I thank God that I’m skilled and able to provide food for my family. I’ll be honest, I haven’t started incorporating more scripture-reading or service into my regimen yet, but I intend to.

And in doing these things, I’ll be making myself more spiritually “fit”, and more importantly, I will become closer to God. And then, when it’s game seven of the Churchly Cup, I’ll be ready and engaged. The darkness of Good Friday will cut deeper, and the joy of Easter Sunday will be greater, because I will be more in tune with the story that we are participating in. And in the weeks and months that follow, I’ll be more fit than I was before. And yes I’ll probably eat some spiritual baconators in the off-season, but one of the beautiful things about following what we call the Christian Calendar, is that the intensity ebbs and flows. We have downtime, and hard training time.

Thanks for keeping pace with me.

———————–
* Q. How do you know if a friend on Facebook is training for a marathon?
A. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

3 Comments

  1. Robert Jackson
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Chris – thanks for this post. I mean, I’ve enjoyed and appreciated every post so far on your #lentenrepentin – and looking forward to the next one. But this one in particular choked me up. All that stuff about becoming more spiritually fit. I’m so thankful for the team that you and I play for. Bless you, bro.

  2. Posted March 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Another fabulous post! I am so happy I found your blog!! The funny thing is, I only found it due to the Time article about your fast…which a friend posted on Facebook…which is what I gave up for Lent. So basically, I found your blog on your Lenten fast because I broke my Lenten fast :-/ (In all fairness, it was actually an email notification that alerted me to the blog, so I logged in to FB, found the article, and logged back out…do I need to go to confession for that?)
    Anyway, as a mom of hockey players and runners, I LOVED your analogies to training for the Stanley (Churchly) Cup and a marathon. Thank you for your wonderful insight!

  3. chris
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Sadie. That’s kind of funny. Breaking fast isn’t the end of the world, and really, being too rule-based is probably not very helpful. I imagine you’re fasting from spending long stretches on Facebook. Logging-in and clicking a link doesn’t seem like a failure to me. Have a blessed Lent; enjoying the “training”. And remember to reflect on the build-up when Easter is finally here. Thanks for following along.

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