This weekend a number of PC(USA) staff members are fasting and praying as a way to continue learning and discerning regarding the emerging world food crisis. Various aspects of the food crisis appear in the news daily now. As colleagues and as a community we are entering into a time of discernment, repentance, prayer and fasting to consider not only how we continue our current support of people and organizations around the world that are working on food, hunger and poverty issues, but what new things we might be doing and inviting the church to do.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program website is a good place to learn more about the crisis and about ways to be involved. This particular time of fasting goes three days, beginning last night and ending Sunday evening. People are participating in a variety of ways and using this time to learn, pray, get clarity and discern further steps. We are only beginning to understand the magnitude of the crisis and all the myriad factors involved in these complex and interwoven issues.
Personally I struggle with how public I want or need to be about my participation. I shy away from calling attention to myself, especially as fasting is a deeply personal and spiritual experience; at the same time I'm a person who processes and learns by articulating my thoughts and experiences--so it helps me to write about my experiences and talk things through.
I've been thinking about how to participate in this fast and what I've come to is to simply eat less. Not eat nothing, but eat less than I usually do. To eat more simple meals, to eat lesser amounts and to eat more healthy food. I heard a great quote lately, by Michael Pollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The meaning behind these phrases will be a blog post for another day... For now here is how I feel it relates.
I know I need energy to do good work and meet my goals right now; therefore I need to "eat food" in order to fuel my body in a way that maintains my energy level and productivity. I also know I have been snacking more lately and eating more than I need, and so "not too much" is a helpful way to change that pattern and get my practices back in line with my values. I've also not been getting enough vegetables and fruits lately, so turning my food choices to "mostly plants" right now is a good mantra for that.
Part of me feels unsettled about a mantra of "Eat Food" during a fast related to the world food crisis. But another part of me thinks that's what it's all about--eating food, all of us, every one of us, each of God's most fabulous and cherished children. Because of hunger and poverty, many people are not able to "eat food." My not eating isn't going to change their reality on this day or any other day, but it is going to bring me closer with what hunger feels like and what it's like to go without. By eating only what I need and when I need, I am getting in touch with my body's own ability to use food efficiently and also to hunger and want for food--something it rarely experiences. It's also helping me focus on the concept of "enough" and to discern what is just enough for me. Which leaves more for someone else... Which puts less profits in the hands of corporations that manufacture some of my overly processed snacks...Which brings me closer to God and to the earth and to actual food and what it is and means and does for my body, for my community, for the world.
So for now this is "the fast that I choose." Perhaps at a later date I will choose to fast and pray and learn in other ways, and invite those experiences and hope to share them with you.
What is God calling you to do in this time? What food and consumption habits do you wish to change? What ways do you envision learning and praying and discerning and acting regarding this most un-holy food crisis?