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Fasting as Feasting

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How Lent can help us be more present to God, ourselves, and our kids

By Jamie Roach

For many of us, Lent is associated with “giving something up.” For 40 days, we let go of one thing in order to take hold of something else, something better. In my years of practicing Lent, I have “given up” coffee, pop, alcohol and chocolate, just to name a few. I know other things like TV and social media are also popular items. But what’s the point?

I know that one of the ways chocolate helps me is that it comforts me. I know this to be true because when I have “fasted” from chocolate, I noticed I quickly became irritated when I couldn’t have it. I now know that eating chocolate is one way I comfort myself, especially when I am feeling stressed. Chocolate is an excellent distraction. While it does nothing to solve the deeper problems causing my stress, it makes me feel better temporarily. This short-term benefit of chocolate helps me understand how a “Family Size” bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s can magically disappear in one sitting.

When we fast, we are making space to listen to our anxiety rather than ignoring it. When we welcome and sit with this irritation, it will reveal to us what inside us needs our loving attention. Back to my example, when I notice myself feeling anxious, instead of grabbing another handful of M&M’s, I look inward and turn to the risen Christ who abides in the depths of my heart. With Christ, I sit with the anxious feeling and become curious about what it can teach me. As I listen, I realize it has something to do with one of my children. As I continue to sit with the uncomfortableness of the anxiety, it reveals more of its secrets. I am also worried that I may be a “bad” parent. Part of me needs my child to behave in a certain way in order to prove that I am a “good” parent.

I am now faced with a very tough decision. I can continue to use chocolate as a band-aid to cover up my anxiety, or I can go deeper to the root cause and find healing. Here is what I mean. I have learned that at the root of my anxiety is a fear I am not a “good enough” parent. So rather than turning to chocolate, I look to God and make more room for Love in my life. I open my heart to Love and allow it to wash over me, reminding me I am worthy, I am loved, I do belong, I am “good enough.” My identity does not depend on my child’s behavior and others’ judgments. My identity rests in the unshakable, dependable, permanent love of God.

As I practice God’s presence, I feel love filling my heart and the anxious feelings begin to abate. I feel a bit more whole, grounded, connected and energized. The strong pull for chocolate is losing its intensity as I experience healing in my deepest parts.

I also realize that with love displacing fear in my heart, I am able to be more present to my children in ways they need me. I can tolerate their fears and anxieties. I can sit with them, as the tangible embodiment of God’s love, and together we can be curious about what is irritating them. My very presence is a healing agent in their lives.

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