As I grew up, my family made bread a central part of Ash Wednesday meals. As a child, the tradition was a reminder of the special meaning of the day, and my siblings and I anticipated the trip to the local bakery to select a few special kinds. We heatedly debated between honey wheat, cinnamon, and sourdough loaves, which would accompany potato soup, macaroni and cheese, or perhaps baked fish that evening. Years later, I fondly adopt this practice as my own.
Now the hunger felt after a small and simple meal of bread and butter recalls a fitting verse for the beginning of Lent:
“Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Mt 4:4
“Bread” comes in many forms. The normal diet of my age group includes fare from major food groups such as movie star fashion and physique, Pinterest-style homes, and Facebook-perfect social life. Each promises to satisfy the cravings of the heart, but this is always false advertising. Like seconds of a favorite dessert, each extra helping leaves me feeling like I’ve indulged without anything to show for it.
Thus this season, where fasting and ‘giving up’ something occupying too much time in life gives an opportunity. It leaves an empty space-it’s easy to feel it when I find myself staring at the cupboard before realizing it’s a day of fasting, or stop myself about to impulsively scroll a favorite entertaining, but time wasting online site. This Lent, I’m praying that God will allow me to become conscious of that emptiness, the void I usually try to fill with empty calories instead of real nourishing spiritual food. The emptiness that only feels full when it’s filled with temporal things, but shows itself again when the brief pleasure of buying, or tasting, or any other experience is over. I’m praying that I will have the grace to simply give this vacancy to God, and allow Him to fill it as He will.