Friday, February 8, 2008

Failing in our Fasts

On Ash Wednesday, the baby turned her dinner bowl over onto her head. She looked adorable in her silly “hat”.

Then I remembered what had been in the bowl.

“Flounder! Fish hair! Oh no! Bleah bleah!”

Having fish for dinner is no sacrifice at our house. It is a great excuse to browse in the fish department and try new ways to make it.

My eldest daughter said that she was going to give up dessert for Lent. “All except for Fridays,” she said, “because I already give up meat those days.”

I hated to be a stumbling block for her, but I had already begun a batch of chocolate chip cookies. This was part of my new strategy, based on some advice from my Nanna, to give the baby baked goods before bedtime. This has worked all week in filling her up so she can sleep through the night.

“Are you sure about that resolution, honey?” I asked.

“Well, since we had fish today maybe I can have the cookies tonight.”

Later, my husband decided he would give up his nightly pint of ice cream.

Thinking of the scripture, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” I thought, “Why don’t we all follow suit and give up ice cream together.”

After all, much as we love our ice cream, this was one that would not rely on our self control. As I do the shopping, all I had to do was not stock the freezer with ice cream for 40 days. I thought maybe this would be too easy for the family, and not count fully as a sacrifice.

But then I remembered that this is what we are to do on a daily basis to avoid sin. “Flee from evil,” we are commanded. We are to remove ourselves from situations that tempt us to sin.

I know I may seem to be contradicting my last post, in which I said food was not my first choice as a sacrifice. This is one way I can make it easier for my family to give up something for an entire 40 days. I am also encouraging everyone to make their own sacrifices in addition to that.

I announced my own, to give up “critical complaining”. The kids rejoiced until I explained further. This doesn’t mean I can’t ask the kids to clean their rooms. It just means I have to do it in a more constructive way, complimenting them first on what they have done, and gently asking them to improve their messy ways.

Within minutes of this proclamation, I had already broken my promise.

On Day Three of Lent, many of us are in a similar predicament. We have already cheated on our personal Fasts and wonder if we should just give up, or perhaps exchange one vow for a new and easier one.

St. Paul complained that he was unable to stop sinning. He failed what he set out to do, and wound up doing what he did not want to do. But did he give up and go back to his old self, Saul? No, he knew that “we have all come short of the Glory of God”, and he simply asked God to help him to fight his sinful nature.

So I encourage everyone to stick to their vows. If you break your fast, ask Christ to forgive you and give you the strength not to do it again. That is why He died for us, so that His Blood may continually wash away our sins. This is why we celebrate Lent.

Painting above:
“Landscape with the Temptation of Christ”
Augustin Hirschvogel, 1545. State Hermitage Museum.

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