Psalm 93: The LORD Reigns
The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Under the veil of transparency I sit, searching for a conversation with you, imaginary reader, that captures what has happened up to this point. I promised, a few weeks ago, to keep you abreast of my fasting. I had, quite honestly, hoped that I would have a report filled with spiritual wonders; a greater closeness to the Lord; a deeper understanding of the mysteries of Heaven. But between you, me, and the keyboard, this hasn’t been the mountain top experience I’d envisioned…and yet, I have felt the Lord move in ways that were missing before. I am coming out of a drought, parched and weary, into a place of new growth. Tiny shoots of life scratching through brittle soil. I am moving towards unfettered joy found only in the resurrection of Christ. I can see hope on the horizon. And my expectation increases daily.
Matthew 5: 20 ~ For I [Jesus] tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The absence of sugar. For 24 days, I held fast. No sugar. No sweeteners, other than honey on occasion. I discovered a new love of fruit. My coffee was abrasive. I delighted in the metaphor of how bitter and joyless my life is without the resurrection of Christ, every time I poured a cup, or craved a treat. I gave my cravings over to the Lord, I rejoiced in His strengthening me. And then, without much warning, I felt the quaking of self-righteousness within me. I became the master of my cravings. I was the one holding out. I could get through 40 days. Me. For me.
And then, I got sick. I was exhausted, hungry, and miserable. On the way home from the doctor (day 3 of pain and no food), I prayed. I wanted so much to honor my commitment, to stick to it with my own power. But I asked for permission to have a milkshake ~ something to numb the fire in my throat and fill my belly so I could sleep. And the answer I got: my self-righteousness had gotten in the way of my worship. I had given up sugar to take things out of the way of my relationship with my Lord. But in doing so, I’d unwittingly erected another wall ~ my works. I had become like a Pharisee, righteous for my own sake. All show and no heart. Clinging to ritualized commitments, instead of to the Lord.
So I asked for forgiveness. I recognized that I could give up sugar for the rest of eternity and still miss the point. It is only through Christ’s work (not mine) that I find right standing with God. No amount of fasting will ever change that. So I had a shake (or 3). And I got back on my fast, with a new focus: God, not me keeping away from sugar.
Mark 1:35 ~And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
In regards to my snooze button: once. Only once have I risen early to spend time in prayer and meditation. And I will admit that was only when the sun had begun rising earlier (before the “spring forward” time change which causes my room to stay dark until well after I should be up). I’ll also admit that the time wasn’t of high quality; it was of “get-it-out-of-the-way” sort. And I have lamented this. I’ve been my typical guilt-ridden self. Hardly the point.
But in that, I’ve been instructed in and therefore open to the idea of 1 degree of change; which paraphrased to fit my illustration says, if I can take 1 step of faith growing closer to Christ, I have (from an eternal perspective) changed my entire trajectory. So, I’ve taken to praying differently (from a stance of relinquishment instead of pleading); and focusing more time throughout the day on God, His word (even just 1 line of scripture repeated at different points throughout the day), and His attributes. And, not surprisingly, I have grown. My worship is reflecting a slight difference. My thoughts are quicker to quiet, more readily on my Father when I wake than before.
While from the outside it looks like I’ve failed in this, I am changing. I am discovering new means of quality time with my Heavenly Father. And for that, I am glad.
Luke 10: 38-42 ~ As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Finally, to the one thing I’ve given up and actually stayed away from: the internet distraction of a certain social networking site. I haven’t visited it, haven’t thought about it, haven’t even wanted to. And I’ve found lots of time, time previously wasted, to devote to the Lord. But all that time has only resulted in was more doing, more busy-ness, more activities, more weariness, more striving – SIT DOWN, MARTHA! My soul is screaming. Sit at the Master’s feet. Be filled. Be still. Be at peace.
So there it is: seeming failure on all fronts. And yet, maybe not. Perhaps each is 1 degree of change, movement in a more Christ-like direction. I will keep trying, with the help of the Holy Spirit to guide and support me. And I will quietly delight in the metaphor that without the resurrection of Christ, all of my striving is hollow ceremony.