Last year at Lent, I was pregnant. This year, I’m in the throes of nursing. One of these has been the case for the last FIVE Lents.
At first, I felt like I had a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. A few years in, I came to admit that really, it’s more about spiritual disciplines, not like, whether I eat meat or not, so the stipulation of pregnant and nursing mothers being excused wasn’t really an excuse at all.
And now, I’ve come to a new conclusion: we’re fasting all the damned time.
This momma still imbibes (hello, Tempranillo), and as anyone who knows a nursing mother knows, there’s very little limiting-of-carbs-or-any-other-food-group going on, but as I sit up in the middle of the night with a mewling infant sucking at me, or as I would rush to the toilet and give up what saltines I had in my stomach last year, it’s no easy course.
So if fasting (that is, the super-classic abstaining from food, or from meat, thing) is about realizing how fragile your body is, or noticing how much our bodies often rule our minds and lives, or becoming a bit uncomfortable in order to seek God more, then I wonder if the rule about nursing and pregnant women not fasting is more about the fact that these women’s very way of life in those seasons is about how fragile (and also, how strong) her body is, and how much her body’s ability to keep another alive rules the habits and movements of her day (AND NIGHT, oh, the nights), and how uncomfortable so many moments become, when she (me) blurts out, “Lord, have mercy!” (most often, in my case, from exasperation, not physical pain or psychological agony)
I sort of doubt that the Church Fathers who came up with this rule had in mind the many ways in which a woman’s procreating body was already forcing a Christian into many of the practices that a Lenten fast is designed to impose, but I’m grateful for it, nonetheless.
Sometimes, there isn’t a need to manufacture a whole new set of hoops for one to jump through in spiritual discipline; sometimes, by the very circumstances of our lives, we are given the opportunity (by God) to practice faithfulness.