Emptiness and Fullness

I hesitate to publish this post because it is about fasting, that which is done in the quiet, the unseen, not for the recognition of man. But I have joined this community of people seeking God in fasting on Wednesdays and I often find I have something to write in response. Here goes….

Each action is measured, thought through. There is no energy to waste so there is no wasted action. I pause, I consider, I choose, I act, I reflect.

In fasting, I choose against my instinct to shove in one more thing: into my mouth, into my heart, into my day, into my life. Each opportunity to consume rolls around in my hand, inspected, observed, seen for what it is. Today there are no empty calories to fuel needless activity and I discover the quiet power of embracing only what is needful.

Shoes stay in a messy heap; quiet, unnoticed attention to my children as they play seems more needful. They don’t need me to watch them but I need to see them. The phone is ignored, isolated in my purse. Because fasting isn’t about food but about all the consuming I enter into mindlessly: the Facebook scrolling, blog checking, email writing included.

Before my fast even begins, I am aware of the reality rising to the surface that I have over-committed. The deep impulse to be helpful has left me stranded in a busyness not ordered from the heart of God, I feel certain. Beneath the impulse to be helpful to others is a gaping wound of needing recognition. Surely it goes back to the little years, to times of needing recognition, of needing to be special, of cleaning my father’s boat with intense precision to be noticed. But the deeper truth is that no parenting or self-help books even broach is this: his acknowledgement was not enough. I recall the moment of growing disinterested in playing Cinderella after a day on the ocean, not because my dad didn’t notice but because he noticed and it was a drop of water in an empty oil drum. I thought I knew what I was looking for but on deeper reflection, I see again: it wasn’t him and it wasn’t the intoxication of lovers or the accolades of the academy or the gentle pleasure of marriage or the joy of motherhood. It wasn’t even the unconditional love of my own mother. Some of those things I experienced and some I didn’t. But all the false ways of finding wholeness, of putting in one more thing to finally be full, are revealed in their futility when I fast.

What I really need is simple: the perfect love of a perfect God that reaches this aching hole in perfect fullness.

Fasting reminds me of things seen and unseen. Jesus told us, his followers, to make no show of this practice. To not need our recognition from man. At the heart of this, I think, is not condemnation of needing to be seen but an invitation, a revelation even, of the reality of a life hidden in God. That which is hidden is by definition unseen, unrecognized. Our truest lives, my deepest self, is hidden with Christ in God. In the God of fullness, in the God of love, in the God who shepherds the lost, the lonely, the oppressed. So much of what I do is to overcome the emptiness, the lack, the wounds of this world but in fasting the beautiful reality is held out to me as pure gift: in this emptiness, of belly, of activity, of dinner plate and dishwasher, I am invited to find myself hidden in the fullness of God. Paradoxically seen and recognized in the only way that will ever matter when I can embrace the unseenness of this quiet day of fasting.

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