As I have been preparing for Advent, the word “fast” keeps coming to me. I tend to associate fasting with Lent, but I cannot seem to shake this invitation to fast.
This Advent feels different from the past few; I think because I am out of the fog of grief that shrouded this season for the last three years. This year, I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas, and I want to be fully alive and alert for opportunities to give and receive.
I have been pondering the things that keep me from being fully alive and alert, the things that occupy my time and energy without profit. Probably at the top of the list is watching television.
Although I watch less television than the national average, every time I find myself watching a mindless sitcom—or even worse, a rerun of a mindless sitcom—I know I am wasting precious time, minutes and hours I cannot get back.
My awareness of the preciousness of time keeps growing. Last week, I attended the funeral of a friend who was only twenty-six years old. Justin was healthy, and I had no expectation that his time on earth was coming to an end; but he died while out for a run.
At his funeral, I was deeply aware of how well he had used his time; although he had only been in Detroit for fifteen months, the church was full. Hundreds of people had been touched by this kind, thoughtful young man, and we came together to celebrate his life and share our grief.
Justin was serious about his spiritual journey and committed to service. He loved to read and was fond of suggesting titles that had helped him make progress on his path to God. He was passionate about God and his faith, and his commitment always challenged me to review my own spiritual life and my level of passion for sharing my faith.
Even before Justin’s death, though, I had been aware of this invitation to fast. Since my move, I have felt a bit off-kilter and only slowly have I begun to feel more myself. I have started to do things that have always been important to me like baking, knitting and sewing. But my life still looks so different from how it did four years ago.
One big difference is the amount of time I spend writing. For a number of years, I ghost-wrote reflection pieces for a priest friend—my first foray into publishing. Once I started writing down my ideas, it seems my brain kicked into overdrive, with new ideas popping into my mind almost every day.
Taking the time to write down these reflections seems to be a better use of my time than watching mindless television. Fasting from sitcoms might be a good start to help me get ready for Christmas. I can spend that time in prayer, reading books on spirituality and writing. Maybe I will even knit some Christmas gifts.