Fasting leads to Tantrums

I am terrible at fasting. I don’t know if there’s a way to be good at it, but I definitely know I fall short of that mark. Every time I embark on a fast I realize I have the emotional maturity of a toddler after missing just one meal. For a while I rationalized why fasting wasn’t needed, after all, I can still pray and talk to God without skipping lunch. Right?

Two weeks ago I was challenged by a pastor (via his Instagram story) to fast one day a week, at least until sundown. He argued that fasting was something that Jesus did, something He tells us to do, and that it brings a focus in on what you’re praying about. Fasting also provides the added character development of foregoing pleasure, of building endurance to wait and be patient.

Knowing this discipline was something I have always struggled with I picked a day, Wednesdays. Well last week I did Thursday, but that is beside the point. I set out to hold off eating until sundown. The day progressed fairly well, I think mostly due to me spending most of the day travelling to New York from Central Pennsylvania and having slept in late. As the day drew on (mind you this was the day after the longest day of the year) I got hungry, and anxious. Last Thursday was the day I met with a potential roommate to see if the place was a right fit and whether I was a good fit for the roommate. I knew I would have a home in the City, I mean I had to, it was just a matter of it being good.

A year ago I began to get restless about where I was living. There was a lot happening and I was just ready to move out and into Manhattan. I started doing prayer walks around the Upper West Side, praying and hoping for some miraculous apartment to open up to me. I knew it would be a longer commute to the Starbucks I was working at, but I was ready to be in a new environment. As is often the case with my prayers the answer came indirectly while answering another prayer. I got a promotion.

My store manager recommended that I apply for a position as a Roaster Operator (technically it’s the machine that’s called a Coffee Roaster, I just tell the machine what to do) for the Reserve Roastery being built in Chelsea. I put it off, disregarding the opportunity. It was a different career path than what I moved to the city for in the first place, well mostly (but more on that later). Plus, I had no coffee roasting knowledge, other than it happened. A few weeks later he announced that He got the role of Operations Supervisor for the Roastery and again strongly recommended that I apply for the position. I am glad he did.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning how to roast coffee in Pennsylvania and Seattle. This opportunity has afforded me the ability for that change I was praying for, albeit not in the way I imagined. As my training drew to a close I began to think more towards housing in New York, where I would live, how I would live. I wanted to live in the Upper West Side in a studio to myself, while my promotion does have a significant pay increase, it is not Upper West Side studio level pay. In Seattle I started to get more anxious looking at different sites for places, I had wonderful friends send me recommendations as well as more sites to peruse. I had a lot to sift through and only two weeks to figure it out.

Moving to New York, even moving in New York, is not something you can plan far in advance. It’s not something you look at six months ahead, not even three months ahead. Most brokers will tell you not to even try looking until you’re within a month of your move in day. The last time I moved to the city I left on a missions trip three weeks before I had to move out not knowing where I was going to be. On that trip I met my former roommates for the first time and made a move in agreement.

Thursday, last week, I began my trek back to the city. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, nor had I eaten lunch. I determined I would meet with the potential roommate and follow it with a meal to break my fast. Life can seem overwhelming when you’re driving through Manhattan, hungry and worried where you’re going to live. I knew I would like this place, I just had this instinct that I would love the neighborhood. And part of me was bummed because I was still slightly hoping for an 11th hour UWS-Studio-apartment-in my-budget miracle, and I knew that I would love the neighborhood and want to give up on the Upper West (technically Washington Heights is just Upper Upper Upper West Side).

Throughout this housing process, I was going through this crisis of faith. Bear with me on this. I was thinking that since I prayed for an apartment in a specific neighborhood (I walked around a five block radius) and this job came miraculously God would provide the optimum apartment and it would be this great moment of glory for Him. I could say, “I prayed for this apartment, and I shouldn’t be able to afford it, but look at what He did”. So I worried that if I settled for anything less, God wouldn’t get as much glory. If I’m being honest, God’s still getting the glory, I’m just getting less, and other people won’t be as jealous of me.

I have this desire to be well liked by everyone and I want people to see that good things are still coming to me. I want people not to think, “Oh he gave up acting because he couldn’t get a part for three years”, but I want them to just be amazed at where my story is going. My vanity is at stake. Not getting the miraculous, unnecessary apartment, is a blow to my pride, not God’s glory. He still answered my prayer, and He got me a place in Manhattan with views of the Hudson and a beautiful bridge.

To be quite honest, the apartment I got is probably more what I want. It’s convenient access to the city, but feels like a slight retreat away, with some breathtaking views. I digress.

By the time I reached the potential apartment, I was hungry and anxious, not a good combo. I loved the neighborhood. I knew I would. And I really liked the apartment. The room looked big enough to house my books, there’s a washer/dryer in unit, there are lots of trees everywhere. It’s amazing. Now I just had to impress the potential roommate. I think we hit it off. Following the tour of the apartment, we went on a tour of the neighborhood, and closed off with something to drink and for me, something to eat.

I was very candid, I told him, I was interested but I would be viewing another place the following day. He responded in kind by telling me he also would be meeting with another potential roommate the next day. We agreed to confer after.

To add a little more chaos, I was driving up to Connecticut the next day to meet with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle. After viewing the awesomely located closet of a room on 80th st, I drove north. I knew I wanted the apartment in Washington Heights, I was just hoping I could eke out the competition.

I did.

In another episode of anxious Manhattan driving I was able to give the security deposit to my new roommate. I have a home.

So, back in Pennsylvania for the week packing and tidying up until I can move in. Today I am fasting. And I say this not as a pat on the back for me, or to show off how spiritual I am, but in reality to recognize how unspiritual I am, and how bad I am at fasting.

I’m hungry and cranky. It seems it has taken little time at all to forget how awesome God is, all He has done for me in dying on the cross and on top of that all He continues to do in my life. I forget these things easily because I haven’t had a sandwich.

You know that feeling when you know you’re being irrational but you can’t stop because it’s consuming your thoughts?

Me either….

But really, what I am learning over and over. God is so good and I am a petulant child that He loves anyway. He is redeeming me, rebuilding me, no matter how long it takes to wait out my temper tantrums. And He’s so patient.

I’m trying to see what’s next. I’m trying to budget better. I am trying to love people better, open up and be vulnerable. I realize over and over again that I am more worried about how people see me than I am. I panic about how people’s perceptions of me might change, and it’s funny because I don’t even know what your perceptions are…

I watched this cooking competition show and one of the contestants always seems to have it together, he makes a delicious and beautiful finished product. On one of the last episodes his dessert fell apart and he didn’t have a back up. He fell apart. One of the other competitors, was shocked and tried to reassure him. The perfectionist chef managed to put it back together. I resonated with the chef because he keeps it cool and collected until something goes wrong and he crumbles.

Fasting reminds me: I am not as cool and collected as I think I am, but God is always there for me.

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Not as Alone as I Think

I want to say something,  something illogical and foolish, but please bear with me. It’s been a while since I have written anything. There’s good reason for this, well no, actually it makes sense but it’s not a good reason, in fact it’s rather counter intuitive.

In the past month(s) I’ve come to realize something about me. I enjoy being around people, not ground breaking, but I need to be around people. I need to be with people I trust and I can be completely vulnerable with. The difficulty I’ve found is that though I have people around me I close myself off, in part because I worry about people’s thoughts about me, what I’m sharing, but in large part due to this feeling that I will overwhelm the people I care about with the extensive overthinking I do.

I feel as though, because I want to care for people around me who carry so much as it is, I cannot load more on their shoulders.

So the problem persists, grows, and compounds, creating an unhealthy Greg, withdrawn from the people that care for me and stewing in negative thoughts or just too many thoughts.

Foolish right?

Now, in the past to sort of “sidetrack” this issue, or for an eloquent “put together” way of expressing my internal turmoil, I blog, I write about it. (This is beyond the daily journaling I do). This way I can share a struggle, a frustration, a confusion, without true intimacy because I give it themes and metaphorical meaning, externally processing with the enigmatic wide web which includes whomever “chooses to read/hear” my stresses. Typically written blogs give an air of finality to personal struggles, like “writing about it means it’s solved, or mostly solved” which is much more manageable than unresolved conflict, which is messy.

Since I have been trying to work on friendships (or rather this is what I told myself) I didn’t want to share my struggles via blog without cluing in at least some people because then I’d get the typical former response of, “Hey I had no idea, please come to me if you ever need to talk”. I want people to know me, I need people. This is why I haven’t been blogging.

While this has been “good” I haven’t been doing my part. I haven’t been sharing.

I recently reread “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, this is now the third time reading it (I think this will become a habit). The book outlines how Don struggles with intimacy, how he’s been “performing” his whole life. He walks through his journey of discovery through his relationship patterns up until his wife. The book explores how life is meant to be shared and though it’s scary, to be known by people.

Rereading this book and a moment of clarity on a Sunday at church woke me up. My ideas culminated to a realization, I’ve been emotionally unhealthy. I realized it fully when my friend asked me why I was sitting on my own reading my Bible rather than be at lunch with my team/friends.

Reading the Bible is not the issue, in fact it’s a great thing, an essential aspect to life. It was the timing and the scenario. I timed my day in such a way that I missed lunch with my friends, in fact I didn’t miss eating, I had grabbed food on my own and then sat down to read. I told my friend as I was realizing it for myself. Because I need people to process my own thoughts with, I isolate myself when I am feeling anxious because I don’t want to overwhelm my friends with my anxieties.

I’ve been making things worse.

Last night as I was sharing with my friend an encounter I had with God this week, a moment where God was again asking me to trust Him which I was struggling to do. It was interesting though because after I shared, after I included him in my struggling and the process God was walking me through he thanked me. Not just for sharing “myself”, my process, with him, but also he was reminded of something God had spoken to him. My friend basically told me that not only should I share with people for my health but for others to learn.

Life is meant to be lived with others, to share the burdens we are not strong enough to carry on our own. To get perspective from those not within a situation, not themselves crushed by a specific anxiety. We can learn from hearing what people are processing and realize that we are not as alone as we may perceive.

I Have no Idea

I have learned a lot at college. The thing I keep learning is that there is a lot of stuff I don’t know, and a lot I don’t quite get, but that’s okay.

It’s not that I don’t know a lot, more there is a lot more that I don’t know while I’m still learning. 

Yes, a lot of this interestingly enough relates to leadership and ministry, but I didn’t learn most of this in the classroom. Perhaps I can break it down in a few lesson pieces.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. 

This may seem simple and obvious, I mean, unless you work heavily in the prophetic or you have some clairvoyant abilities, most people think they know what will happen next. I mean you can have a general idea, in regards to work schedule and such, but you really never know what could happen. Even the Bible talks about boasting about tomorrow, you never know.

Bigger than a weekly schedule, though, I don’t know what is next in life for me. I mean I have a general idea, but even that is not definite. As a few of you know by now, I had planned on being in New York City by now, in fact, when I first moved here, I thought I was going to be in New York a year ago. I am still in Virginia and it seems like I will be for at least another four years. I thought that would make sense only if I had reason to stay. I thought that reason would be very specific and obvious, a serious relationship, but through a conversation tonight I realized that again I was being to center focused.

I don’t understand how to love.

Now, although this does relate to romantic love, it is more about general love of people, the agape love I ought to have for others. You have to let people go to truly love them. If you hold on too tight to an ideal, it’s not real, it’s stifling and it only limits you in the end. Being realistic is not pessimistic, but it allows you to speak truth when it needs to be spoken and it allows you the freedom from feeling guilt.

I realized that I have been idolizing this idea of friendship, of companionship, that I miss it when it’s there and I push people too much when it isn’t. Not wanting to be alone and being afraid of it, are two very different things. It’s time.

I don’t know how to lead.

This is attached to the idea of love. When you love someone and you see greatness in them, you can’t just expect them to figure it out. Helping someone realize their potential is not easy and more often than not, it requires confrontation so the difficulties can rise to the top. God does this with us, He allows difficult circumstances in our lives so we can grow, so we can allow the negative aspects of our lives rise and be removed.

I know I can be demanding, but I shouldn’t shy away from speaking truth because it will offend someone. Jesus did it all the time. I cannot allow others to suffer for the sake of one anymore. You can see the good in people and do all you can to help them, but if they do not seek for it themselves, it will amount to nothing.

 

I don’t know how to do this.

 

But you know what? It’s okay, because I have a God who does. This is part of my process, too. I get to learn. I don’t have to have everything figured out. And I know it will be hard, but when is life easy? I can’t keep hoping and waiting for some perfect scenario for life, because there is none in this one. All we can do? Seek first God’s kingdom. Everything else is gravy.