Fasting and Feasting

We just recently returned from a weeklong vacation at one of our favorite places.  For those of you who have never had the privilege of visiting Elk Lake, Ontario, picture a quaint little town with the population of about 450 residents (if that).  The town has only one "store", a little variety mart where you can find just about anything for triple the average cost.  Running through the town is the gorgeous Montreal River, a series of lakes and tree lines filling in the space all around.  It's breathtakingly gorgeous, even when the weather is bad, and its one of our favorite places to be.  

Never before had I found myself counting down the days (and hours) to a vacation as much as I did this one.  We had nothing "special" planned for this trip, but were eager to spend some time away resting, reading, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and a host of other activities we aren't normally privileged with doing on a daily basis.  And when we finally arrived after 14 hours of driving, we breathed a deep sigh of relief.  Totally unplugged and out of reach from our normal roles, we were able to unwind.

And as with most vacations, we were sad when it finally came time to pack back up and make the trek home.  But our disappointment with the end of our trip got me thinking as to why we felt we needed time away so badly.  

I believe in life there is this rhythm of both fasting and feasting.  Fasting has its place when its time to deny or do without.  It's a way of reminding us of our dependency on God and on one another.  For some reason, I have always been drawn to fasting, seeing it as an opportunity to test my self discipline.  When one does without, they make greater space for God and in the denial (whether it be purchases, time wasted, food consumed) there is greater room to give based on the new excess.  Lent has taught me a great deal about fasting and the purpose of giving up in order to give out.  

But there is a counterpart to fasting that is equally as important and that is feasting.  By feasting, we give ourselves permission indulge and appreciate the many gifts life has to offer.  Feasting allows us to be filled and celebrate in a way that fasting does not.

Us Siders are "good" (whatever that means) at fasting.  We are good at saying no, doing without and denying ourselves for the good of the cause.  But too much fasting can cause starvation and without even realizing it, Dillon and I had starved ourselves of the things we really needed in order to feel whole.  With vacations, we tend to allow ourselves to feast a bit more, which often allows us to realize how hungry we were in the first place.  

We stay up later to play more games.  We eat foods that we love without worrying about how they might impact our figures.  We nap without shame.  We play without worrying about appearance or maturity.  We omit the words "budget", "jobs" and "finances" from our vocabulary for a time and instead, we fill our souls with the things we really need, which ironically enough are the things we tend to fast from.  

Since coming home, we've been tempted often to fade back into our former routine of all work and no play, but instead, we have been challenging each other to read more, spend more time outside, and even watch a movie on a weeknight (what a thought!)  We want to be the type of parents who teach our babies the value of both fasting and feasting, but to do that well, we need to start with ourselves.

"So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?" 

- Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Ashley Sider