"and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2)
After my third day of soaking (dozing) through a CD during my morning hour with God, I felt a little guilty. Where is the praise, the dancing, the 45-minute prayer? But then I fixed on the lyrics in the last song, Sweet Perfume:
Don't ever think that you are worthless,
You have His life within
You are a sweet wholesome fragrance
So valuable to Him.
And I suddenly realized that while I have a goal to spend time with God and that is important, I cannot let myself feel guilty for having to "ease" into it. I can't get away with napping through music every morning, but what is the importance in our lives? That we love God, and love each other. Nowhere did Jesus say "and the first commandment is this, get up at 4 in the morning and read the Scriptures." No, He said love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
If I immerse myself in guilt, I am not showing myself love, and I will then be hard-pressed to show others love, won't I?
I feel this speaks to the food fast I'm doing as well. I completely broke it for lunch Monday, and have plans to break it again today. Why? Because I had lunch with a committee co-chair yesterday to do some planning, and we went to a place that pretty much only served meat and bread. And today I have lunch with my boss, and she's the type of person who doesn't need the additional stress of trying to find a lunchtime spot that serves big enough salads that I could still look as though I were eating lunch (and not nibbling on a side-salad). I'll admit better people than me could figure out ways around this, I'm sure.
But I have found in the past that when I purposefully break the fast it introduces a new level of thought process. It's one thing to make rules and stick to them and be proud of my ability to not eat meat or wheat or most processed foods... but it's another thing to enter into a situation and see what love dictates in that moment. Does it call for alienating my boss by not eating with her, or by picking at a salad and looking ungrateful for the lunch? (It is to celebrate my anniversary, after all) or does it call for going along with it, eating from the menu, and recognizing that there may be times when keeping to a cultural norm may in fact be the best way in a given situation.
Not all the time, of course. I can't just break the fast every day because I want pizza. But I feel more freedom in knowing that I can prayerfully (sometimes I forget the prayer but I'm putting this in here so you'll remember it) consider if breaking the fast temporarily may be a more loving action for the people with whom I'm eating.
Now, if it helps, you who are reading and possibly thinking "wow, she's really coming up with a lot of excuses for eating what she wants," there are consequences to breaking the fast. For example, I had a greasy cheeseburger, and I'm still feeling the after-effects of it. And this was after only two full days of not eating meat! I've done that before on accident, so it's not like I was in week 3 of no meat and had a steak (because that'll get ya for sure, it's amazing how quickly your body adjusts). So I believe that there can be consequences to breaking the fast, and I accept them since I made the choice.
But I also make the choice to get back into it after lunch today. And that's the important thing. Don't waste time being legalistic because the monkey on your shoulder will tell you that once you've broken the fast you've ruined it and may as well stop. But the small voice in your soul will tell you that it's the heart of the matter that counts.