I broke my fast today, though not because I intended. I got in one of those situations where food was kindly offered to me and to refuse would've meant offense. And so, in the spirit of the Church's stance on hospitality (and common courtesy) I ate some food... tacos to be more precise. Yes, they tasted delicious for a few minutes. But let's make one thing perfectly clear - you don't break a five day water fast on fast food tacos!! My body absolutely hated me the rest of the afternoon.
It wasn't only my physical internals that were grumpy with me. Emotionally I was really frustrated about it and was starting to feel like the whole endeavor was pointless again. Then I read the quote in the image above from St Nektarios and I understood that it was my pride flaring up.
You see, I didn't even fail at fasting. In the Orthodox Church love always comes first. Without love we have nothing, and that is true in fasting as well. So if fasting is going to get in the way of loving our fellow neighbor, we choose to be hospitable and humble, rather than to keep our fast and cause our brother pain or distress. Spiritually I made the right decision, but the part of me that was so happy in my own works and just about to complete a whole week of not eating... well that part was sullen. And it was a good wake up call to regularly check my motivations and my heart as I continue this journey.
For someone who's been undisciplined with food most of his life (and not very good at fasting) the pride has definitely been lurking in the background. For that reason, my obedience to the Church's actual standard on hospitality felt like failure, because I wasn't approaching the fast from a purely spiritual perspective. If I had been, eating that food would have simply been an extension of the fast itself.
It also doesn't escape my attention that blogging about this is drawing attention to something we normally don't talk about. I did discuss why I wanted to blog about this with my spiritual father, and I received his blessing to do so. My thinking has been that it is a good way to keep myself accountable and I hope my feeble attempts can be an encouragement to others who struggle with the idea of fasting in a society which makes it so difficult.
I'm definitely not better than anyone else when it comes to self-discipline, but by God's grace I'm trying and not giving up. I hope any of you out there who struggle to do this discipline won't lose heart. After the tacos earlier I feel like my resolve has slipped a little bit, perhaps the motivation I've lost is the wrong, prideful motivation and it is a blessing in disguise that I now just have my spiritual reasons to continue.
It's sort of like Cerebral palsy. Children with spastic Cerebral palsy (like our son) have really tight, contracted muscles. They seem a lot stronger than they are because they learn how to use their spasticity to their advantage. They stand, not because they have muscle mass, but because their muscles are "stuck" in position so to speak. If you take away the spasticity, their true weakness shows because they can't rely on that "stuckness" any longer.
My heart is incredibly contractured, palsied and stuck. I was doing better at this spiritual discipline than the actual spiritual strength that I possess. Now that the spasticity of pride has been removed, my heart may be softer and more open to healing and strengthening, but my weakness has also been revealed and the next part of this journey is looking much harder than I had anticipated.
God help me and give me the strength tomorrow to continue and not to dwell on what I have or haven't done, or anything in myself. Everything I have is His anyway.