I've had a troubled relationship with fasting as long as I've attempted to participate in the spiritual discipline.
I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years training in classical ballet, scrutinizing the reflection of my body in a wall of mirrors. Mine never looked quite as perfect as others in the room. The comparisons I made between myself and others didn't cease when I stopped dancing. In fact, once I left my disciplined community of ballet friends, I fought even more strictly for control.
My journey of healing is an ongoing one, but if you've followed my writing for long you're likely aware that it has involved transforming my understanding of God's myriad purposes for food. I don't talk often about this fraught history, I focus instead on the ways that God is presently unfolding for me the beautiful power of eating.
However this personal history resurfaces every year around Lent. I've often feared that restricting my eating for the sake of fasting might trigger the habits that once controlled me. The season has forced me into deeper contemplation about the purpose of fasting and what it means for those with a disordered relationship to food. While for me, restrictive eating was about gaining control over my body and conforming it to the standards I deemed good, fasting is about recognizing and offering back to God our lack of control. Very slowly, through the rhythms of communal Lenten fasting, my own failures navigating this season have drawn me more fully into healing.
Last month, I shared with a handful friends my difficulties with this season. It turns out in this area I am so so far from alone. These friends and I put our feelers out on Twitter to see how many others resonated with these concerns too. The response was overwhelming.
I've decided this year to spend the season writing and sharing reflections on fasting, eating, and the body. Over the next 40 days, I aim to post twice a week. This practice is for me another form of releasing control. I don't have the capacity this semester to plan out a series or to bring each post through several rounds of revision. And yet, I believe that I should use this space to compile some conversations that need to be had. I'm trusting that God will speak through me as I attempt to host a much-needed conversation!
I pray that through this season, my blog can be a space of communal healing. If you have a particular question or topic you would love to see addressed, please write it in a comment below. If you'd prefer to make a more anonymous request, just shoot me an email. If you would like to write a reflection of your own, please let me know too!
Last Lent, my series on bread allowed us to use our bodies as a form of prayer. This year, I hope that we deepen the conversation in search of healing.
We were designed to eat our way through God's tasty, material creation. I hope this journey through the wilderness will help us find the profound beauty of both fasting and feasting once again.
Here are a couple of things that I've written recently on similar topics:
Community, Delight, and Care Fathom Magazine
Lenten Fasting Biohacks First Things (co-written with Hal Koss)
And here is a post I wrote last year as I grappled with this same topic:
Fasting, Feasting, and Restrictive Eating Christian Food Movement