Fear of emptiness
There are different ways to look upon fasting. To start, you can only fast from something that you like to do, or perhaps seeking to lessen a compulsion that needs to be healed and released. Food comes to mind when fasting is considered for in countries like the United States, food is readily available and easy to use in ways that can not only be harmful to the body, but also affect other areas of life.
I fear hunger, run from it actually, hate that empty feeling and I also love to eat. So when I think of fasting, food is the first thing that pops up. I tend to eat unconsciously. I see something good, grab it without thinking and afterward wondered why I did that? Or I am anxious and find myself making a peanut butter sandwich with a class of milk. It is a way of coping, or trying to in any case, which really does not work. The promise of peace or happiness is seen for what it is, an illusion; which for some people can be fatal. Heart attacks are one of the top causes of death in the United States.
My weakness for and my undisciplined attitude towards food is not something I love about myself and will probably struggle with all my life. Most people have something, but there are some who seem able to do all things in moderation. So this lent I am trying to fast from food, which will lead me to face my fear of emptiness, which will lead me to seek grace and aid in my seeking to grow deeper into my relationship with God and others. Gluttony is a form of self abuse, for it has detrimental affects on the body; there is always a price to pay when seeking escape from problems. I don’t diet, they don’t work. I know people who have been on diets for years and only gain weight.
When I do pray about hunger and my fear of it, it allows me not only to connect with God, but to also pause and be conscious of what I really want and need. Over eating does not bring me to myself, not in any way that centers me, but only in a way that can lead to self contempt and anger. So in order to have a fuller life, something always has to be let go. It is not a matter of will power, since there are times when I am strong with my relationship with food, at other times; well I am more or less out of control. I don’t binge, or anything like that; I just like foods that are called comfort foods. Foods from my past that seem to make me content for a very short time are the big draw. As I age my weight goes up, so the only way to stop that is to have a healthier relationship with food. If I seek a deeper, freer, interior life, then I need to let go of my fears, to not run from them, to seek inner communion and strength by pausing and reflecting.
There is always paradox at the center of our interior life. In order to receive, we have to let go. Reality, the world as we know it, others and things, or not to be used, abused and thrown away as trash and forgotten, it is a form of being unchaste. It is about relationship, power, how we use it, and how in the end we treat and love ourselves. Sin comes about when we treat “all else” as our property to be used without any thought of consequences. Sin is what keeps me from facing life, with all of its varied colors. Life is about inner expansion of the heart, for God is love, and the image we are made in is that reality. Love at its center is other seeking, the Trinity points to that. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit pouring out love for one another, and we are invited into that dance. There is something deeper that calls all of us, which keeps most of us restless and often bereft of any real joy or feeling of home. In order to grow in love and joy, that which keeps it from arising has to be let go of…..a true death to self.