Be Merciful to Me, Lord
Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing.
For most of us, Lent conjures up thoughts of abstention from meats, sweets, and drink. Chocolate tops my annual list because my resistance to this delicacy is so low. Throughout the season, I offer up supplications for loved ones whenever chocolate calls my name. Then I break the fast early on Resurrection Sunday by raiding my amply-stocked Easter basket. In 2008, however, I felt led by God to abstain from meat. I thought this made no sense because meat is no temptation for me. Still, the urge was strong, so I went ahead with the fast. On my blog, I wrote that I was “abstaining from the stuff of life rather than the fluff of life.”
Then, five days after Easter that year, my first-born son died by suicide. The Lenten season has been fraught with awful triggers and new significance ever since. As it and the first anniversary of his death approached in 2009, I knew no ordinary fast would do. After my son’s death, I’d come to view the previous year’s fast from the “stuff of life” as Holy Spirit inspired preparation for a future without one of my two children. After all, aren’t children the stuff of life?
“So what this year?” I asked. Was I excused from abstention because I do without already?
The stuff of life, reduced by half. Every day. Every hour. Every heartbeat and break. No. I think not, because life does in fact go on in this interminable Eternal Now. The flesh still needs its training in abstention. Abstention from excessive grief. Abstention from wallowing in the bitter cup. Abstention from fear and morosity.
My grief was overwhelming, and so I settled on a fast from bitter foods as a way to symbolically break its crippling bonds. It was a highly unusual, but necessary, Lenten journey.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Perhaps grief isn’t your fundamental reality this year. Perhaps it’s something else. Do you have a sour disposition? Why not consider a fast from sour foods? Is your tongue destructively salty? Say goodbye to potato chips. When you’re tempted by these treats, pray for deliverance and offer up a song of praise instead. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (v. 24).
PRAYER: “Blessed be the LORD, for He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city! For I said in my haste, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes’; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried out to You.” Psalm 31: 21-22
Lord, during this season of reflection, let these words penetrate my mind and pierce my heart. Let them do their work in me. Amen.