Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent & Fasting: Thoughts for the Mother of Little Ones

So today is Ash Wednesday.  That didn't mean anything at all to me, growing up, and it still doesn't really, in terms of real practical living.  But I appreciate the general pattern of fasting at meaningful times represented by the traditional celebration of Lent, kicked off by Ash Wednesday.

Today, I decided to take a self-imposed break, or fast, from Facebook & all online forums.  Honestly, I don't spend a lot of time on forums at this stage in life, but I need to be more disciplined and use my time more fruitfully, to worship God & serve my family.

There have been times when I have spent more time in these online locations-- when I was beginning homeschooling, for example, I spent a lot of time on Sonlight Forums (a WONDERFUL place to learn about homeschooling), and I've spent a good amount of time on the Raising Godly Tomatoes forum at various points, learning and gleaning wisdom from wise women about child rearing.  But now is an excellent time for fasting from these things, so I am.

As moms of little ones, fasting is an interesting topic.

In most religious traditions with "rules"/guidelines about these sorts of things, pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, children, and the elderly are excluded from the requirement of fasting from food.  As Christians, we don't have specific rules like this governing our decisions about fasting, but we do know that God is "gentle with those who are with young" (Isaiah 40:11) and knows we are made of dust.  As women, we recognize that we are a weaker vessel... particularly, more fragile in certain conditions that we often find ourselves in when we are mothers of little ones (pregnant/breastfeeding/in a more exhausted state/etc.).

Spiritually, I have grown so much through times of fasting from food.  I first fasted in college, and found it to be a way of being much more intentionally focused on prayer & God's Word, and then have had a virtual hiatus from fasting for the last 10 years as I've been pregnant or breastfeeding for virtually 100% of the time during these years.  Since I am currently neither pregnant nor nursing, I have enjoyed the spiritual growth & times of more intensive prayer that comes from regular fasts once again, knowing that the time may again come when I cannot do so.

I want to encourage you in two ways:

  1. If you are at a place where you feel free to take fasts from certain things, and can do it healthily, and joyfully as unto the Lord, do it.  BUT ALSO- 
  2. If you are in a place of neediness, exhaustion, feeling burnt out, used up, stressed, etc., allow the Lord to fill you and meet your needs.  Do not feel pressure from others to give up things that you need or do what you can not do.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no, and rejoice in either fasting or in letting the Lord supply your needs.  
As Christians, we are not bound to ritualistic feasting or fasting.  And particularly as a young mother, your God, El Roi, sees your state.  He knows your needs.  Let Him be the source of any religious observation AND the meeter of your every need.  Draw on HIS reserves.  You can do that through fasting, or through the joyful receiving of food (or the joyful receiving of internet wisdom, or the joyful eating of chocolate, or whatever you might feel pressure to "give up" during Lent).  Don't let the convictions or decisions of others rule your life, particularly in this demanding season of your life.  

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd... and will gently lead those who are with young." 
~ Isaiah 40:11

Rest in your God.  Rely on your God.  Rejoice in your God.  Do this, whether fasting or partaking.


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