(Post #3 of 4 in "Spring Training")
Now, I could make the case that by adding more prayer, I am giving up time and I am denying myself that extra cup of coffee in the morning in favor of praying the Office, but that would be disingenuous. I'm having that coffee anyway. I just put it in a to-go cup. But, that's what I have been doing for several years, now.
No, really, I'm trying to take the easy way out. There's no help for it.
Just because I am working on my communication skills doesn't mean that I am paying better attention to my body's needs. In fact, without fasting, prayer doesn't make a lot of sense.
First of all, what is fasting? The official definition of fasting is not to eat or drink for a certain period of time. For a Catholic, fasting is the denial (or pushing-away) of a desire for something other than the presence of God in our lives. While we typically think of fasting as the denying ourselves food or drink, it can also be eschewing creature comforts, like television or a certain musical group that we like to listen to. Fasting is designed to give us a hole to fill. And, of course, that hole is supposed to be filled up by doing something for God. That's why fasting without praying is just going hungry and almost always leads to the collapse of your three-legged table of Lent
Fasting is practiced in a specific way on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (for Roman Catholics) but fasting is also where we get the idea of giving up something for Lent. Lent is a time where we get lean and mean for the Kingdom of God. We already talked about sharpening our skills of communication, through Prayer. But fasting provides us with a "diet plan" for our Lenten conditioning.
In the course of carrying out our mission for God, we will likely be called upon to give up big things that we love. We may have to move from our dream house, or give up our job if our consciences are violated. We might be called to move away from our families, like missionaries or professed religious. These big sacrifices are overwhelming to think of for most of us. But, if we have trained, little-by-little, they don't seem so awful once they are required of us. Like a marathon runner who has done the 5K, then the 10K and then the half-marathon, we are training during Lent to run the marathon. These little sacrifices, lead us to bigger ones. and the bigger ones lead us to a more full appreciation of what it meant for Jesus to hang on the cross and die for us.
I haven't given anything up for Lent in years. I think the last time I tried to give something up, it was Dr. Pepper. I was an addict. Truly. I would look through the couch for change if I ran out of Dr. Pepper. By day three, I had the most excruciating headache that I gave up my giving up. Lenten FAIL.
Last year, I had a health scare and it kind of woke me up. I am not getting younger, or healthier. In order to live the mission that God is sending me on (which I believe is to sing and share the gift of music,) I was going to need to get a handle on my health. Right before Lent began, I realized that I was committing the sin of gluttony. It was like a thunderbolt. I always wanted more. More of everything . And nothing was more important that that "more for me". I had to make a change. I was crowding out God's plan for me. I was gaining weight and developing health problems that affected my voice. My energy level was dropping so much so that I could not adequately do my job.
When I went to my confessor, he suggested I start with something less ambitious than the great Dr. Pepper fast and build up. So, I began taking only one portion of food at meals. I didn't serve myself seconds. I would have dessert, but, just one portion. I started to drink some diet pop, but every now and then, I would still have one with all the calories intact. That was a big one. The health problems began to stabilize. I felt much better and I was really doing a much better job with all my pursuits. But, like all humans, I have let things slip.
So, that's what I'm doing this year. I am giving up sugared (or corn-syruped) soda pop. Instead, I am drinking diet soda and I am cutting myself back to one portion of food at a meal. And, when I want that extra piece of chicken, I am going to remember that in order to be ready for the race (much less to win it) you have to train.
One of the things that Spring Training provides for athletes is a re-commitment to their goals, individually and as a team. So that's how I'm looking at this: I am recommitting my body, (through fasting) as well as my spirit (through prayer) to the service of God. When he calls me, where ever He sends me, I'd like to be ready to go.