Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a time of preparation in which Christians of various traditions observe disciplines like fasting and prayer before Easter. I plan to embark on a dietary fast for spiritual reasons during this period, but I have also found practical value in longer periods of intentionally abstaining from certain practices.
While sometimes misunderstood or misused, the practice of fasting allows us the opportunity to become aware of our choices in a unique way. Last year I felt impressed to fast from buying clothes. Seems like a silly thing to deny myself since I don’t shop that often anyway. What I learned about myself in the process was priceless, though.
I had become increasingly aware of the involvement of slave labor in the garment industry. I was concerned that my purchases were not made with awareness of anything but my own selfish desire to buy for fashion, savings, or on impulse.
My year-long commitment included not buying anything unless I really needed the item, then to look second-hand options first, and finally to purchase the item new only if I could reasonably say that it had not been made by slaves. As a result of that commitment I could tell you exactly what I purchased in the entire year:
A running bra–not optional, and not second-hand
(A running dress came free with the above purchase)
6 pairs of socks
1 pair of jeans–second-hand
At Christmas I typically receive a cash gift.
With that gift, I purchased:
1 pair of jeans–new
1 pair of running shoes
1 cardigan sweater
I learned that I am impulsive when it comes to sales and clearance. It takes Amazonian strength on my part not to cave. I do have to say that this clothing fast was only for myself and I did buy appropriate clothing for my children, which is really a little bit cheating because it sometimes took the edge off…
This year, I set out to fast from meat. I need to say that I do not necessarily believe that eating meat is immoral or wrong or terribly unhealthy. I do believe that the amount of meat we typically consume as Americans is unhealthy. The way that we conceive of the composition of meals leaves much to be desired. The treatment our food-to-be in CAFO’s is pretty reprehensible. So there is a lot to be gained from being more intentional about my meat consumption.
I think there are ways to eat meat with a clear conscience and a healthy body, but I am not sure I have fulfilled that ideal in the past. I decided to give myself an opportunity to think about my meat consumption and food choices in general by eating meat free for an entire year.
I put guidelines on this fast in the same way I did the clothing fast. I will eat meat when it means accepting hospitality in a gracious manner. I will eat meat when completely unavoidable (when that is all that is available, like at some church functions). I will eat fish from time to time.
I am hoping to learn as much about myself from this fast as I did the clothing fast. So far, I have learned from both that I am able to live just fine with much less than what I consumed before without giving it a thought.
Living with intention is very much a part of the Refreshing Life.