After the fast

It has been many hours after the fast and I am still learning things about myself that I didn’t realize in the first few hours. 

I thought about what I was reliant upon as I was in the midst of my fast. During my fast I relied upon my faith in God. My trust that He would feed me what I need. That there is no need I have but Him and without a Him all else is essentially window dressing and beside the point. I learned that I needn’t be hungry so long as He fills me up. This came as a shock to me because I’ve heard many folk say for all my life to try God and see if He won’t do it for you. That the is nothing too hard for God. That when you have nothing else but God you can make it through. O, taste and see. Those were all nice to hear and offered a glimpse into what being a man of faith can be. But I didn’t have a personal encounter with it. 

Now. I. Have. 

I learned so much during It and even now I’m still learning things. I see now that as soon as I came back into the world and started eating the worlds food, something and changed within me. I noticed that for the first time this week I craved more food. Even when I wasn’t necessarily hungry for food. I noticed a hunger within that gnawed at me and asked me to satiate it. I realized that while I was focused on food I could focus on little else. That my desire to eat food was nearly insatiable and constant. This at first scared me because I realized that I’m not the only one who feels this way. 

Food is a great way to socialize. In America we assign importance to all manner of foods and connect it to most everything we do. At Thanksgiving we consume turkey. At Easter the ham. Birthdays the cake. This is my great challenge. The consumption of food has crept into everything I do. It’s nearly impossible to click on the radio, television or Internet and not be inundated with images of happy people eating food. Foods that are exotic and mundane. Foods that are competitive and passive. Food that is tasty but not necessarily filling. So I eat more. Can’t get enough of it. Even if it’s not healthy for me. And here I see the truth of it all. 

It’s not just that I eat. I must eat. But what I eat matters a lot. This goes beyond simple consumption of nourishment to allow my temple to continue to function. This goes deeper than providing energy so that I can press on and remain focused. This touches on the spiritual foundation of taking in nourishment. Nourishing food for the soul is what I ate for three days. And during that time, even while fighting a bad head cold, I wasn’t starving. I was comfortable. I now know why. Because God was filling my body with Him. He was filling me and nourishing me. If I recall the words of Jesus who said (and I’m paraphrasing) do you not see the birds of the air? And do you not know that God watches over them? If Father in heaven watches over them, how much more will He watch over you? This is not just an idle statement. This is a fact and I’m a living witness to it.

I’m not saying that I’m going to stop eating and carry on till the day I am finally called home. Chances are excellent that that course would put me in His arms a LOT sooner than I’d like. What I am saying is that while He allows me time here on this ball of dirt we call earth, I will not let a day go by that I don’t stop at some point during the day, consider Him and have a conversation with Him. My minister said to us the other day that which I know all too well. But hadn’t TRULY understood. That daily prayer with the almighty is necessary. Prayer is not necessarily a bended knee, prostrate positioning of the body with many lovely words strung together in supplication. Prayer may simply be a word or two spoken between two old friends. Prayer is what I did while fasting and each time He answered me. I want to continue that dialogue. 

Maybe, if you have not yet tried to chat with God, you too will try. Your conversation may not be overwhelming. Mine certainly was not. But it will be comforting. And that is what He promised, isn’t it? To send a comforter in times of need? 

Yeah. I learned a lot during my fast. 

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Faster

What did you learn? 

Whenever someone decides or is led to fast I’m certain this is an inevitable question they must field. Fasting is an unusual word for something that to my ear has nothing to do with food. I’ve just completed a three day fast and I did it because I felt led to it by God. I know to many this sounds quaint or grasping for “likes”, but I know what I felt and how I knew I needed to respond to the call. 

You see, I’ve made a number of decisions in my life recently. One was to accept the call to the diaconate. It’s a call I’ve accepted before but never finished for a number of reasons. Some reasons completely out of my control. This time the classes are clearly rigorous and are quite intense. I feel like I’m taking college classes again. Whole books to read and report on, reflection papers, group studies, one on one interviews, and on and on. The pressure is high and fast paced. But I’m determined and will not waver. 

I’m entering a new phase in my professional growth. My career as a public official is expanding beyond my four walls. It’s exciting. It’s new. And it’s frightening. 

Change is all around me and I believe in my heart God said you need to stop focusing on everything else and take some time to reconnect with me. The Word discusses fasting and so does many books in the library. They discuss what to do to maintain health and well being during my fast. But I didn’t read them this time. This time I simply told my family I will fast and when God releases me from it, I will let go. Not because I’m hungry for food, but because I’ve finally realized why I needed the fast. You see, I’ve been replacing God with food for months now. Replacing God with career achievements. With short term goals. Social organizations. People. Anything I could find to allow me to pretend to be closer to Him when in fact, I was just as far from His side as I was before I was baptized. Something needed to change and fast. 

So food had to go. I needed to remove food because it became an excuse to not focus on Him. To not pray to Him in the mornings and noontime and at night. To not in random moments think of how He is still there for me. With each passing hour I saw myself thinking of food instead of His ability to feed me. When I felt a hunger pang, I simply asked Jesus to come closer. To let me talk to his father. To fill me with Him so much so that food wasn’t needed. And it hasn’t. Not for three complete days. I’ve found that living on water and liquids like juice or broth only for these days has opened me back up to Him. To trust in His guidance in ways I needed and will need. 

So it was no stunt. It was not for weight loss. It wasn’t for a fundraiser. It wasn’t for social justice. It wasn’t to prove to myself I could do it again. I fasted because I wasn’t talking to God. He spoke. I didn’t talk back. My relationship with Him was becoming a masquerade and I was tiring of affixing my disguise and pretending it was ok. 

It wasn’t all easy though. I am still fighting off a sinus cold that will become intolerable should I fly while still ill. Fasting while sick isn’t the best thing to do, I’ve been told. Taking medication on an empty stomach is tough going. Or it should be except I found something other than food to satisfy me. 

Tomorrow I believe I’ll start back eating. I’ve seen what I must do and I won’t shy from it any longer. 

Me: Hello dad, how are you? 

God: I’m fine. Let’s sit and chat. 

Graveyards

let me share with you a short story. 

Jesus had been lain in the tomb and was under guard because the suits were afraid that without guards, the body would be stolen, the disciples could say anything they wanted, and the prophesy fulfilled. But when the women came to the tomb three days after He was lain within, they were met by an angel sitting on the tombs stone. The stone had been rolled back. The women were astonished and the angel asked them a very important question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.” 

The lesson is that too often we too look for the living amongst the dead. 

I’ve met a number of people in my life who are in relationships, situation-ships, and any number of other ships. They’ve bought their tickets and refuse to exit the ship even when it is sinking. They have had conversations with me regarding the boyfriend they absolutely love and that girl they can’t see a future without. The love they feel is genuine and perhaps even pure. It’s a relationship that lasted a very long time and they have invested a significant amount of time and effort into building it. The problem is that the love has become one sided and is not being returned. The love they both once worked so hard to foster, be good stewards of and seek to grow has stopped. One is working hard and the other is not. 

“But I’m in love with her!” He shouts. “But he said he still wants to be with me!” She cries. 

Being IN love is like being inside a house. Imagine the two I’m talking about are a person and a house. The two are made one by being inside the home. If you are not inside the home, you are simply standing outside. Two bodies. Apart. Separate. Only when you enter the home do you both together become a combined unit. So there may well be love for the house. There may be a lot of reasons to love the façade and the lovely windows and the well manicured lawn. But until you are inside the home it’s a one sided relationship.  The house doesn’t have a bed for you. It doesn’t give you access to the kitchen for warm food. The bathroom offers no space for you to cleanse yourself. It may be able to. The house may be willing to. Perhaps even anxious to. But if the two remain separate, there is no relationship. Again, you may love the house, but you are not IN the house to grow that love. 

So that relationship or situation-ship that is clearly one sided and is not symbiotic or growing either party. The girl is mad he won’t say “I love you” back even though she says it dry day. The guy is mad she won’t show him affection though he just knows he has shown her he loves her. There may have been a time that she was in his “house” or she was in his. But no longer. No. It’s not easy to let that go. She has her clothes the closet. He has his toothbrush on the sink. They both have dirty laundry in the washing machine getting moldy. But someone left the house and the relationship is no longer clear. The relationship between them is dead or nearly so. There’s no avenue to restore it to life because someone stopped trying to feed the relationship. The food in the fridge is gone. The gas bill hasn’t been paid and the water is shut off. No life is anywhere to be found. 

So what does this have to do with the stone and Jesus’ grave? I’m glad you asked. 

Like these women of the bible many of us are just like them. Looking for the living among the dead. They came to the tomb fully expecting to see a stone blocking their path and a dead body inside. They even discussed what will they do when they got there. How could they move the stone? They weren’t sure how, but they went anyway. Many of us go to that house unsure how we are going to open the garage door or unlock the front door. We go without a plan or the ability or for that matter the permission to re-enter the house. The desire to go in is only coming from one side and the obstacle is still there. But we go anyway. Sure that we will somehow convince the one still in the house that it’s okay to let him or her back in. Just open the door or toss a key down. We can do the rest. But the fact is the one inside the house hasn’t opened any windows. Thre hasn’t been any thought about unlocking the door and the garages still sealed shut. 

In other words: The relationship is dead. 

Why look for the living among the dead? Is there a point to continuing to force your desire for relationship when clearly you are the only one who is? Is there any reason to look for a living breathing relationship in a dead place? I would argue that when the relationship is one sided and there is no response that gives hope of life, move on to the places where the living are. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not what you want to do. I know that you would rather go with the monster you know than the one you don’t know. But the relationship is dead. The door is shut. The way is blocked. There is nothing but the dead here. 

The good news is that the is an entire planet of people who don’t know you yet. Who actually might love to get to know you. Who don’t know how wonderful of a person you still are. And frankly you don’t know them yet either. What are you waiting for? Rejoin the living and seek the relationship God has intended for you. God doesn’t want you to seek the living among the dead. He wants you to have life and to have it more abundantly. 

Live again. Look for the living in the places where there are the living. Learn to live again.