Last year at this time, I had a strong sense that I ought to abstain from meat for 40 days. It was odd because I only tolerate meat in minuscule amounts. I’m partial rather to shellfish and dessert. Hence, the high cholesterol.
I wrote something then about abstaining from the stuff of life rather than the fluff of life. It was a prophecy uttered unknown to myself for now until forever in this mortal habitation we call time. For what is the stuff of life more than children? They are evidence that one isn’t just going through the motions “long after the thrill of livin’ is gone,” to quote John, not the Cougar, Mellencamp.
This is how I know that God was not absent last March 28th at nine-o-something in the evening. It was his Spirit who inspired me to abstain from the stuff of life—the blood and muscle and sinew of my days—instead of chocolate, too ordinary a Lenten abstention, but one much more challenging for a frivolous fool like me.
The Almighty was preparing me for who knows how many years of abstention, of hope deferred, of evidence unseen.
I recently found this oath that my husband and I made (and kept) to our children on the advent of the teen years:
G and M, we realize more than ever how much we need the grace of God to exercise authority over you in wisdom. We commit this day to seek your well-being above our own, to pray for you daily and to seek the Lord’s wisdom in regard to you. We commit to take the time necessary to gain your trust—that we might earn the privilege of being your counselors. We commit to value you enough to say no when necessary and yes as often as possible. Above all, we entrust you and your future to the Lord.
Hope deferred. Evidence unseen.
So what this year? Am I excused from abstention because I do without already. Every day. Every hour. Every heartbeat and break. From the stuff of life, by half.
No. I think not, because life does in fact go on in this interminable Eternal Now. The flesh still needs its training in abstention. Abstention from excessive grief. Abstention from wallowing in the bitter cup. Abstention from fear and morosity.
Perhaps this year I’ll fast from bitter/sour herbs and bitter/sour foods, which I enjoy a tad too much. Chicory, watercress and sorrel. Lemons Olives. Turnips. Coopers Extra Stout. Pomegranate martinis. I’ve only had those on rare occasions, but still.
Perhaps I’ll feast on joy for 40 days: lush dark chocolate with nuts and caramel. Sweet burnt Creme Brulee. Laughter with my friends and family. Tuna casseroles thick with gooey cheese. Worship bold and free.
Yes, I think that’s what I’ll do.
But first, there’s Fat Tuesday pancakes and a poem to be read aloud. I intend to make it a bitter one, but funny. One last indulgence before the f(e)ast.