Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Ruts, No Glory

Because I am fasting from meat, I've had to think about what I consume. That's not to say that I don't ordinarily think about food, I think about food a lot: "Hmm, what'll we have for dinner?" "I wonder if we have any garlic." "Mmm, nachos would be great right now."

Although I don't ordinarily eat much meat, I had expected a certain degree of preoccupation with food: the occasional craving or desire. (The latest episode was on Saturday, when I cooked – what I am told – was an awesome corned beef. I had a mediocre cream of potato soup.) These bouts with temptation have rather expected results: I resist the temptation because I have made a commitment to do so; other things then satisfy me in ways I didn't expect; and I am left with the feeling that I am sustained by a God who cares for my needs and not my every whim.

And if you're tired of me talking about food so much lately, here's a non food-related illustration of another surprising lesson I've been learning: I have a key ring with only church keys on it. That way, I don't have to walk around with this great big lump of keys in my pocket if I'm not going to the church. The other day I set these keys on the counter where I ordinarily set down my cell phone, instead of in my closet where I usually put the keys. I don't remember why I put the keys there, but I'm sure I had a good reason at the time. And I remember thinking, "I need to put these where they go or I'll forget them next time I go to church." And then I said to myself, "No, no. I know where they are; I will remember them." Sure enough, guess what I had to go back home for on Sunday morning?

Call them habits, routines, or ruts, our repeated patterns of behavior can be a blessing and a curse. I know me; I know that without my regular habits, I will certainly neglect a perfectly healthy choice like bringing my keys with me to work. But I also know that these same ruts lead me to less-than-healthy choices simply because that's what I'm used to doing. Fasting from meat this Lent seems to be revealing this truth to me: going without this one thing reveals my need to examine the things I do simply because that's what I'm used to doing. In other words, do I eat meat for dinner because it's good for me to do so, or am I eating it simply because (and I hope I don't get sued by the beef industry for saying this) it's what's for dinner?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Covet Not Thy Neighbor’s Roasted Chicken

Although I have stopped eating meat for Lent, I have no intention of imposing my spiritual disciplines on anyone else. In this way, I am a good little Protestant. (I don't even suggest you take on a Lenten discipline based on this blog; that should really be a decision you make in consultation with your Creator.) And, because I do most of the cooking at our house, I am really the only one inconvenienced by this spiritual journey. And although it's not a huge inconvenience, this does require some amount of planning. For example, did you know that the human animal's most direct source of protein is meat? Neither did I until a day or so before I started this fast. So going vegetarian in a household that is otherwise carnivorous, is more than just preparing meatless versions of what everyone else is having. It often involves adding other protein sources like beans or something; which often leads to an entirely different meal.

I've been on this fast for about a week and a half now and, for the most part, it's been working out fine. I am the one who does most of the cooking at our house because I'm a pretty good cook. So not only am I able to do a pretty good job of properly nourishing myself, I can make it taste pretty good too. In fact, so far there has only been one instance in which I've been jealous of what the rest of my family is eating. Hear my confession:

After church the other day, the kids and I drove down to Farmington to do some big-box shopping. As we were shopping, it occurred to me that by the time we got home, it would be time for dinner. So genius me, I decided to pick up a roasted chicken. When we got home I quickly make up some veggies and some macaroni & cheese to be their sides and as my mains. What I didn't count on is how much I apparently love roasted chicken. It surprised me, really; this hadn't happened before. Oh, there have been the fleeting memories of burgers gone by, but nothing that made me think, "Man, I want that."

The leftover chicken is still sitting in our fridge, mocking me.

My spiritual lesson came in a surprising way. I suppose I expected that there would be some sort of "resisting temptation" thing to learn, but it wasn't ultimately all that hard to resist; I wanted it, I just didn't put it in my mouth. I didn't have any grand revelation about my capacity to resist temptation, nor did I perceive a rush of God's power to help me to just say "no." Instead, I had dinner. I ate an adequate meal of macaroni & cheese and veggies (and some soybeans for more of that protein we were talking about). It tasted fine and it nourished me for the rest of the day. I felt good physically and I felt good spiritually, knowing that I had stuck with the commitment I had made.

Even without the things I crave, I am sustained by what God provides. And perhaps I'm better off.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Meat My Lenten Discipline

To answer the question no one has actually asked me: I have decided to give up meat for Lent.

Here are the parameters for my Lenten semi-fast: I'm not eating meat during Lent.

To further clarify: from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, I am not going to eat meat. I will not be taking any days off of this fast and I consider fish to be a form of meat.

I don't get this "fish isn't meat" thing. My understanding of the term "meat" is that meat is generally the part of the animal that moves that animal around; some would call it "muscle" (I know we eat other parts of animals, it's just that I don't usually eat those parts). We eat that meaty part of the fish. How is that not "meat?" And besides, I bet the fish would certainly have its own opinion about the subject. So I'm not eating fish either; I even switched to a different source of Omega-3 fatty acid for Lent.

So I've been on this fast for about a week now: so far so good. I'll write more about the lessons I'm learning as the weeks progress, but I will say that the major challenge isn't that I miss meat. At least not yet. By the end I'll probably be longing for a burger from Alice's, but for the moment I'm learning to be (albeit temporary) a vegetarian.