One gift of long recovery is discovering how many of the things we struggle with are simply part of being human. In the beginning we attribute all of our character defects to being alcoholic, but after time and work and making friends with many kinds of people I have learned that everyone is afraid, everyone has some kind of defense, and no one is loved as much as they really want to be. And in America, no woman is happy with her bodyJ.
I also love learning that most faith traditions have been trying to help their members with this pain of being human for ages and ages. Each faith tradition has a version of “surrender” or “offering up” problems; there is an injunction in every religion and every faith tradition to be present, to be quiet, to be in the now, to listen to the voice of something other than fear.
My spiritual director recently said to me that the Gospel of Matthew says that we are “relieved of our afflictions by prayer and fasting.” I had heard those words before but always kind of thought of “fasting” as an extreme, old-fashioned measure. And maybe a tad too sacrificial. But then she explained, using 12-step language, that “afflictions” are like character defects and that what the Gospel writer was saying was, “don’t feed the character defect; don’t give it more food, energy or fuel.” I loved that.
I knew immediately that what I most need to fast from is fear. I feel fear twinges all day and I can feel when my mind wants to feed that fear a huge meal of energy and give it more fuel. What I am learning is that when I sense that start-up to a fear thought or a fear scenario—(and its always some future scenario) I can say, “Nope my fear friend; you are going on a diet”.
And of course I also need prayer to make this work. Praying to stay aware of those first, tiny impulses toward fear, praying for the courage to catch it and not “play with it”, and then praying for the willingness to fast from that fear.
“We are relieved of our afflictions by prayer and fasting.”
Do you have a particular character defect that might benefit from prayer and fasting?