It has always seemed incredibly ironic to me that while fasting, of all the spiritual disciplines, drop-kicks me into dependence on God faster than anything else, it does, at the same time, bring out the absolute worst in me.
I suppose it's fitting - fasting being a physically cleansing activity - that it seems to do the same thing spiritually, but good golly gosh - it's neither pleasant nor pretty.
Two unexpected things (both related to finances) have happened in the past twenty-four hours that have shaken my trust - and showed some serious flaws in its foundation. It seems I've been building my trust on the wrong things again, instead of on the solid rock of God's Word and character. To say that God is faithful and in the next breath freak out about something that may or may not happen is to build on sand. To choose the easy way (depending on credit) at the cost of integrity (even if no one would ever know) is again to build on sand. And houses built on sand can't stand.
Today had some really tough moments. Moments when the fruits of the Spirit were scarcely visible and the muck of my sin, pride, and extreme lack of faith dominated the scene. It was horrible. I cried - a lot. I cried because I felt abandoned and unheard, because I could not see how God would come through. I cried because the consequences of past sin (in regard to how I've handled/viewed my finances) justly affect my present reality even though those wrong choices are covered by grace, and it feels unfair, although it isn't. And I cried because I know that God is faithful and true to His word and His promises, because I know that trying harder isn't what earns grace - that you can't earn it; it's a gift, and you have to receive it, and that sometimes life is just life and you can't control it and it is - somehow - all going to be okay, and that accusing God of not caring enough about you to give you what you want is one of the dumbest ideas ever.
And God, in His goodness and His grace, waited until I was done with my fit, and then spoke quietly: "Go buy yourself some Cadbury eggs."
Permission to splurge. To do something kind for myself.
To stop dwelling in the negative, and to choose hope.
So I bought the eggs.
They are sitting here on my table - Easter eggs: a symbol of life - and better still, chocolate, which inevitably makes me happy. They remind me that the God of the Universe, who knows the deepest cries of people who live in far worse circumstances than I do, heard my cry and answered in a way that He knew I'd understand. He knows me. He sees. He hears. He cares.
And He waited until the muck of my sin was out in the open and then patiently began cleaning it up. "You can't control everything. But there are things that you can." So I folded my laundry and did the dishes. Sorted thru the junk mail and recycled a ton of clutter. And caught up on a few of Andy Stanley's leadership podcasts - including one on Integrity (from July 2012).
A woman of integrity doesn't take the easy way out. She does what is right, and God blesses it. By the end of the podcast, I had chosen not to take the easy way. And within minutes, a solution to one of the problems presented itself. Whoa. The other one (if it even exists) is more complicated. It'll take time. But it is not impossible - not for God.
And I don't have to see how He will be faithful to know that He will be.
Ironic, that I could forget that, while practicing a spiritual discipline that is meant to bring me closer to Him. And yet - in the end, I guess it did. And I shed some things along the way that will leave my spirit lighter, provided I don't try to pick them up again.
Andy Stanley tells of a prayer he's prayed daily for years, and I think it's one worth adding to my personal liturgy: "Lord, give me the wisdom to know what it right, and the courage to do what is right, even when it's hard."
It just goes so much better that way.
And this Cadbury egg I'm having for dessert? It's seriously sweet.
Fasting Makes Me Grumpy - February 2008
Fasting, Repentance, and Freedom - February 2008
Lenten Journeys: Learning to Breathe - February 2010