I've got this friend named Terry and for her eating is an act of worship. I've had the pleasure of sharing meals with her on several occasions, some in restaurants, which become temples in her presence, and others in her home. Once, I sat in an airport in Colorado Springs waiting for a plane and munching with great joy on a bagged lunch she prepared for me. Each experience was exquisite. If I lived with my friend I'm certain I'd weigh 130 lbs and be a blissed out mystic, especially at meal times.
What makes eating with Terry so special? I believe it's a combination of two things. First, she's a lover. When she brings people together at a table it becomes a Eucharistic celebration. She has a way of connecting people who may otherwise have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Over wine, cheese, lovely food and Jesus, defenses wither, walls long erected come tumbling down, and her little communities of diners feast on love: God's, hers, and each others.
Second, she brings a certain mindfulness to the table. I don't know if health concerns made her this way, or if she's just a contemplative eater by nature. This is what I know: to Terry, an apple is a masterpiece. She can have church in the produce department at Whole Foods. She is not a hedonist, she is a deeply reverent pilgrim. She doesn't worship food, but rather, the God who created and gives it.
I don't care how simple the meal--in fact, the simpler the better--you taste and see that the Lord is good with my friend. And that teaches me something.
As I lay myself on the bosom of the Bridegroom this Lenten season, so sorry for my sins, I find myself contrite about the many disconnects of my life, and the most glaring example is the way I've stopped listening to my body. I realized something recently. I was not obsessed with food, nor abusive to myself as an eater until I met the man who physically, spiritually, and mentally abused me. I don't talk about the four years I was bulimic much. The memories are painful. Nor do I speak much of the self-hate I learned and continued for the rest of my life. But as I lay upon my Lover Jesus, hearing His heartbeat, I am certain that I must revisit the wounds as He delicately, and deftly heals me.
It is a slow way. I want it to go quickly. I want to be a fasting and weight loss star, losing seventy pounds in six months! But He won't allow me to do something big and heroic (and insane). He's teaching me the little way, how to be small. I want the small body, but not the little, humble, child-like soul He wants me to be. But I am trying.
Today was so meandering. I lingered in bed, curled next to Ken, dreaming, and reading, and thinking. The hours passed, Lauds: the coming of the light/Light; Prime: deliberate beginning; Terce: the blessing hour, and Sext: Fervor and commitment time. From Lauds, before dawn, until Terce I kept time in my heart, doing what Brennan Manning calls holy loitering. I stayed aware of Jesus, gently, trying to be mindful against the monkey chatter in my brain. By Sext, which is around noon, I pulled out my Prayer Book and read all the hours I'd spent just basking in God's presence. You know what? I don't think He minded the creative scheduling.
I asked myself after my Ash Wednesday ambitions what is most meaningful? I decided I really do want to keep the canonical hours of prayer, and so I kept them, but not in a legalistic way. I tried to show up, with love, and attention. I also want to give, but I haven't quite figured out the form this giving will take. I'm thinking of a community project with you, but I'll need your help if I do it. I am considering write a Stations of the Cross for an African Orphan. In Africa Jesus taught me to see Him in His most distressing disguises. Those children are being crucified daily, through hunger, loss, lack, and AIDS. Surely a Way of the Cross for them would be meaningful. I thought I could offer it as a Zine in a few weeks, and you could share in providing a little relief, as all the proceeds of your donations (if you choose to participate) would go to The Children's Hope Chest. I'm praying about it. Tell me what you think.
I've also cut back on sugar, significantly. I've given up soda. You have no idea what a hard thing that is for me. I gave it up because it's hard. And I'd like to simply cut my heaping food portions, offering up my screeching hunger for the hungry. That's about it. Those are the things that mean a lot to me, and I'll be praying that by grace I continue to repent of many poor lifestyle choices (and sins!)
Before I exercised today (Wow! Look at her go!) I ate a bowl of raspberries sprinkled with stevia. I thought of Terry and her little way, relishing each bite, thankful for God's creativity in giving us simple, nourishing foods that are delicious. I worshiped Him because He is good, and kind to make raspberries so good--though I think the stevia may need tweaking. I was grateful for my friend for teaching me this important lesson. I feasted not only on berries, but Him.
I want my entire Lent to be about not only what I fast from, but also, what I feast on.
For your meditation:
Fast from judging others: feast on the Christ indwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on patience.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-violence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence, so we can be gift to others in carrying out your work.
(from The Essential Lenten Handbook: A Daily Companion, 2000, Ligouri)
Fast from negatives; feast on