“What does fasting do?” my husband asks.
“It makes you hungry,” the ever so honest Sunday school-er replies.
“It makes you focus on God.”
Sometimes focusing on God means sacrificing. Other times it means imbibing. Extremists like me often have trouble recognizing that it is both/and not either/or. Our problem presents when we begin to lean too far into only one direction. We begin to forget that the other side of the coin is equally pleasing to God and good for our spiritual lives.
The one who finds faith in fasting must figure out how to find freedom in filling up. The one who finds faith in filling up must figure out how to find freedom in fasting.
As I ran another very slow postpartum four miler I considered my position. I am slower than I have ever been. I weigh more than I ever have. I have more responsibility and less time. But I also have more love and less worry; better friends and less loneliness; more patience and less sadness.
It occurred to me that I am allowed to be happy with where I am right now — even though right now I am not nearly what I once was in some areas. I do not have to always bully myself about what is not perfect about me. I am allowed to be proud of who I am today completely apart from who I am striving to be tomorrow.
No, I did not wake up at my strict standard 5 a.m. for study and prayer. I have not done so in too many days to count. I ate a few cookies. I ran slow. I started school late. I made peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I wore sweats all day. I didn’t finish my filing. I did not fulfill my goals or check many boxes off my all important to do list.
Still, “Good job,” I thought. I’m doing pretty good.
The thought so foreign to my ever antagonizing inner dialogue seemed strange. I almost did not believe myself. But, yes, it was true. I actually meant it. I genuinely felt accomplished and content despite what did not get done perfectly. Could it be? Have I grown or have I grown lazy? Before the browbeating antagonist takes over once again, let me say with confidence I believe it is the former.
I got up. I fed my baby from my own body at least twelve times today. I spoke to God between shower and school time. I exercised. I shared stories, subtraction, and swimming with my children. I said, “I love you,” and “I’m sorry.” I looked in my newborn’s eyes and watched some of her very first smiles. Five years ago this all felt far more like failing. I am not failing. I am focusing on God through my freedom saved up for a season such as this.
For the first time in my life I feel flexible rather than forced. It is not that I don’t want to be better. It is not that I don’t need to be better. Always. I will always be goal-oriented with a side of go-getting. That’s just the girl God made me. I don’t even think I can help it. So, no, it’s not a matter of lowering standards. I have simply written myself a permission slip that says I will accept my own limitations and be kind to me as I work ever so slowly toward my ultimate goals.
Because wishing for a free moment to read my Bible is far better than reading it for an hour while wishing I didn’t have to. A slow run is better than no run. Better late than never. Imperfections are part of being made perfect.
Sometimes focusing on God means sacrificing. Other times it means imbibing. Extremists like me have trouble recognizing that it is both/and not either/or. So, from one faith finder to another, by all means, find God in fasting. But find him also in filling up. Figure out which season you are in and be free, fearless, and faithful. Because both are pleasing to God as long as our focus is on finding him.