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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Hope Hurts

Let me tell you how.

Hope, according to Dictionary.com means, “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best: to give up hope.” [emphasis mine]

It means that something good will happen. Will, meaning not yet, not right now. Hope is an investment. A belief in some later payoff. Hope hurts because it requires you to wait, to believe that though it may not appear so, things will come out right.

It’s easy to give up hope, to turn to cynicism,  even Dictionary.com likes to point that out in it’s example use of the word. It’s much more common to give up on hope than to to hold onto to it. It’s elusive and intangible, and it makes you discontent with the status quo, believing in something better.

Lately I’ve been wanting to go the easy route, to let my circumstances tell me what will be, to ignore the possibilities in the promises that I believe that God has given me. It’s much easier to resign myself to this existence than to live in the current situation of trial knowing at some point it may not be so…does this even make sense?

How could it be that the knowledge that things will be better make it hard to live through difficult circumstance?

Well, to know that there is possible life outside this circumstance and it’s just not accessible yet. That for now I must be in the difficulty waiting and believing for better. How foolish this seems written out. Obviously this is only for a short time, but perhaps the frustration lies that it could not be this difficult now, that the hope is just being held out longer. For you don’t need hope for something that has already been fulfilled, only that which has not been fulfilled requires the hope that it will happen.

Proverbs says something on the matter, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Prov. 13:12a). You see, the heart becomes sick. It becomes an effort, a chore to carry on believing that the good will happen. That verse continues on to say, 
“…But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12b). 

Lately God has been building up my hope muscle, stretching it beyond my ability. How long can I hope for what seems impossible?

This past week something terrible happened and through it God stretched my Hope muscle in a different and difficult way. My friend died. She was riding her bike to work early in the morning and she was hit by a truck. It felt like I had been hit by a truck when I got the news. I was floored. I was having a weird day and then I heard this news, I tried to continue to carry on as usual but I couldn’t get out the door onto the floor without sobbing. I left early and went to a friends apartment.

Grief is uncomfortable for a lot of people, because it looks different for everyone and there’s not really an exact science with how to approach it. A lot of times a favorite phrase is, “they’re in a better place”, especially for Christians. Oftentimes that particular phrase is paired with, “we shouldn’t be sad, we should rejoice because they are with Jesus now.”

No.

I mean yeah, but no.

Yes, it’s true she is in heaven with Jesus. It’s true I should celebrate her life, all that she did and that I should rejoice that she is with Jesus, but I miss my friend. I miss the wonderful woman that she was  and brought into my life. I miss her laughter, how she was always was covered in paint from her job. Her obnoxiously loud voice and the way she handled awkward silences (decidedly not well). I miss her love of coffee, the precise amount of cream she needed. I miss how she would share so wonderfully what Jesus was telling her, what she was walking through life with Him in that moment.

I am happy knowing she is with Jesus, and I will see her one day, but I miss her now. I have hope that one day I will see her, but right now I am dealing with the present of her no longer being around, of going to church tomorrow and knowing I won’t see her.

As a source of comfort, I recently read C.S. Lewis’s  “The Last Battle”, the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia. Spoilers: in the end they die and enter Aslan’s Country (a.k.a. Heaven). Upon reaching heaven the characters have a wonderful reunion with all the friends of theirs that have passed. It’s amazing. Aslan says to Lucy Pevensie, “The term is over: the holidays begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

Do you see what I see? The greatest part of heaven is the final hope is fulfilled. We have reached what we were designed for, complete community with the Father and His creation. My friend has reached the hope fulfilled, and I (among many) am waiting on hope.

You know what else, I realized this week? Whatever I am hoping for, I don’t have to wait alone. One of the best ointments to ease the longing that hope creates, the grief that you face when you lose someone, is people who are experiencing it with you, or people who just care and help carry that burden. That first night, we all gathered to tell stories and eat food, to laugh and to weep. The next day, I spent with two amazing men and together we helped carry each other in our grief.

I don’t know if there was a specific point I was trying to get to in this, other than hoping and longing for wholeness is hard and it can be crippling, but when you have a God who cares for you and people who can help, the load is a lot more easy to bear.