Here is a mystery: The Fast.
Fasting is layer after layer of mystery, contradiction, and paradox.
(And I’m not even talking about the most obvious one: Although it’s called a fast, there is no period in the world that seems to go by so slowly as a time during which you abstrain from eating.)
Contradiction and paradox are two of the must fundamental building blocks of mystery. They are things that should not happen. And yet they do. To our limited and puny little minds, things seem like they are impossibilities. Things seem like they can’t possibly happen. They confront us, sometimes quite brutally, with the limitations of our abilities to understand. They speak of a reality which is greater than our understanding.
It is a contradiction, a paradox (and therefore a mystery) that abstaining from a thing is the best way to see its value. Not-eating is the best way to fully appreciate eating.
It is a contradiction that we might begin by recognizing that eating is a very human need. And yet me are somehow most human when we refuse ourself this need. An animal eats when he is hungry, and damn the consequences. A real human being is someone who looks at food, feels his stomach screeching for it, and still says “No. I want to do it. But I won’t.”
It is a contradiction that we come to see best how God nourishes and cares for us by choosing to not eat. This is true in two senses. When we go a day or so with out eating, we realize how very blessed we are that we have been able to eat before. (and so what if it was not precisely what we wanted; who cares if it was not as much as we wanted.) It is also true that God nourishes and cares for us in ways that are so much deeper than merely physical. When we take a break from focusing on his physical provisions, we see so much more deeply all the other things he does for us.