I am somewhat aware of my failures as a disciple, a devotee to the message of Jesus Christ. It is amazing to me that I can believe so well in my good intentions to commit one day, between 24 and 16 hours, to not ingesting food in a cognitive effort to practice distancing myself from the hungers of my body, the desires of the flesh and to ask God for help when the pangs are strong. It is my best intention to sip water and listen for things unnoticed and to be aware, more fully aware, of what is in front of me. This is my focus as a Lenten practice. Six weeks, right?–It amounts to six days.
Failure. Friday’s are my day to submit to this intention, to focus on Jesus, Father, Spirit in earnest.
I forgot, til about 11 a.m. Having had breakfast, I thought deeply; the kids were out of school for a snow day, we were having fun…so I decided that I could move my focus day to Monday. Less distractions, less cooking, better time for practicing this fast.
Monday is here. I did well until the boys, once more out of school, went to shovel more snow with a friend. I decided to cook them a new recipe, knowing I could not partake, but believing they would enjoy it. As I sautéed and clarified, I hummed, paring the potatoes, stirring and enjoying the exercise. Praying for their safety out on the streets, praying for the person coming home from the hospital who needed their drive cleared…feeling good and domestic and happy, I realized that as I cut the potatoes, I had popped not one, but was up to a third one in my mouth…raw, crunchy, potato goodness…AAARRRGGHHH! Without thought, there it was, a broken fast.
Temptation is not even something insidious. It’s not malicious or covert. I just popped those bits of starchy goodness in to my satisfied, comfortable mouth and chewed through my prayers and loving gestures…Temptation is part of who we are as fallen creatures. We cannot resist, we cannot stop ourselves from not noticing our giving in…concupiscence at work in all things we do. aaarrrggghhhh.
So I determined to continue my day, seeking forgiveness for my failure, hoping to discern something helpful, something deepening through my failure and repentance and re-commitment.
Who knows? This journey we are on, this intentional practice of reliance, of letting go, of taking on, of seeking to grow and stretch our reliance on God is just that, practice. We practice with intentionality some oddball action to allow ourselves to find a manner in which to participate in God’s words, God’s body, personally challenging ourselves to “stay awake,” to “be alert” because we know the lion is on the prowl.
I just want to believe I can keep the lion at arm’s length, that I have the ability to be stronger than the lion. So I seek to discipline myself…Peter wrote it like this, “8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” …and so we do practice our resistance… all the while singing, and praying “thanks be to God, my ‘fast’ is self imposed, not circumstance imposed. Thanks be to God that it is an exercise for me that is not about failure, but acceptance of God’s blessings and grace.”
Peter goes on, “10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
Amen, indeed. I’ll go for it again on Friday, week three. Perhaps I’ll gain a new insight, a new awareness, but for now, the joy of knowing that God loves me in spite of my failures is plenty to carry me through. Thanks be to God. Amen.