I won’t lie; it was a struggle to get through 21 days of the Daniel Fast. It was less the food restrictions – I was still allowed to eat legumes, oatmeal, dates, fruits and veggies. It was more the limitation of not being free to follow habits. Things like:
- enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a challenging work day
- making a meal of potato chips with organic yogurt dip and some raw veggies
- sweet treats like ice cream or chocolates – bits of palatable comfort after dinner
- craving a weekend-treat breakfast of bacon and French toast (but having to settle for peanut butter on a whole wheat pita)
- saying ‘no’ to my flesh in order to feed my spirit – food and other habits
And yet, on the last day, I thought, “wow, that wasn’t so bad after all”. I learned some things about myself; or, rather, I was reminded of things I knew but neglected to address.
These are some of the things I learned during the fast:
- What I eat and when I eat are habits – I miss the freedom to choose whatever I crave more than the actual foods themselves (no withdrawal cravings but this-food-would-taste-so-good-now cravings)
- I eat when I am bored or nervous, for something to do – I reach for what’s handy, usually not-so-healthy foods (chips, cheese, ice cream)
- My stomach controls too much of my time and energy – thinking about shopping, cooking, deciding what to eat, etc (Note: it’s big in our family and culture, so a learned response)
- I focus too much on food and it takes away from time/energy spent on more important things
- I use food as a way of comforting myself – food instead of friends (sometimes)
- Even when I try to follow the DF plan, I am looking for short cuts and compromises (eg., cheese flavoured rice cakes, or allowing certain no-no foods but only on Saturday or after sundown)
- I don’t think I’ve lost any weight – haven’t weighed myself but pants don’t fit looser – that’s a surprise, but then, I have been eating a lot of beans and pots and yams
- I’m not spending time in God’s word, His presence or in prayer – I don’t take time to listen (that was something I intended to do on this fast; instead, I revert to habits of behaviour: home, dinner, TV, shower, bed)
- I am unfocused; not sure what to pray about, what verses to read. I prayed the 2-hand 10-finger prayers JF talked about on Sunday – but they were too general
- I ‘fasted’ Grey’s Anatomy on Sundays – I missed it because I was addicted to finding out ‘what happens next’ to characters that were well written and acted, with enough twist and surprises to fuel my addiction
- I am tempted to give up because I’m not doing the DF 100% correctly or fully – that’s what the Enemy wants – God understands my struggles and challenges, knows that I am trying and knows my heart
- Keep going forward – don’t stop and don’t go backward: the Enemy loves it when we trip up then give up. God is forgiving, His mercies are new every morning – and He knows our hearts
There is always a test
On my first PDF day, Monday, I had 2 tests. The first was a work. Our computer network was disabled. We had no Outlook (Email, calendars) was out all day, and Internet was sporadic. I was working on a couple of projects, needing to share information with people I couldn’t reach by phone, trying to send files but unable to.
When systems were back up around 4 PM, I was madly scrambling to send emails and documents. By the time I left, I was exhausted. I just wanted to get home, enjoy a glass of wine and decompress at the end of a very frustrating day.
Test 2 was on the subway. I use a small seldom-used subway entrance that lands me on the westbound platform at the front of the train – exactly where I need to be for my station. There was a young woman going down the stairs in front of me. Slowly taking a couple of steps, pausing to sip her coffee, down a couple more steps. She was dressed kind of sloppy, carrying a skateboard under one arm, a bag under the other arm and holding a coffee.
I moved to the left of her and started going down the stairs more quickly. As I passed her, I accidentally bumped her skateboard, and she dropped everything. The coffee landed bottoms up, the lid still on. I turned back and said, “I’m so sorry” and continued on my way. She began cursing, “f… this, f… that”. I turned back again, to apologize, just before I went through the turnstile. That’s when she said, “I’m homeless and you made me drop my f…ing coffee!”
Can you imagine how sh…y I felt? The right thing to do would have been to stop, go and look her in the eye, apologize again, and give her $5 for another coffee.
But I didn’t. I kept going. I made it to my train just as it pulled into the station.
Granted, all this happened within 3 or 4 minutes, but as I reflected on the incident, I was reminded of some of the dross in my character.’ I had judged her, considered my needs (and myself) to be more important. I rationalized that she should have been more careful how she held her belongings, especially the jutting skateboard.
The truth is, I did feel bad. Especially the part about her being homeless. But I still did what I wanted to do and pridefully put myself ahead of her. Not what a nice Christian should do. Certainly not what Jesus would do.
So… I’m still contemplating these things in my PDF world. Trying to hold onto some good habits – spending time with God as soon as I get home, then doing other things. But it’s a challenge. A process. And I am so very thankful that God is so patient with us. He gives us a lifetime to learn and He doesn’t kick us when we’re down. He never stops loving us.
How nice it would be if we who follow Jesus would be more like Him. It’s a goal I’ am pressing toward more consciously this year.
Would you do it, too?
Food is a big part of our culture. It is impressed upon us from the time we are very little. I remember my parents emphasising that I had to finish every single thing on my plate because I was lucky to have it. To this day, if it is on my plate, I tend to eat it. Hence: smaller plates.
Legumes are filling. I have quite a bit of them in my vegetarian/almost vegan diet. I have been eating that way, without ever looking back, since I was 17. Believe me, one can have a rich and varied, delicious diet without meats, etc. But for me the struggle is with carbohydrates. That is my weakness. I have to fight it every day, all day, otherwise I would load up on biscuits and pretzels and the like.
As for the subway incident, we have all had these regrets. For me, I would have been afraid to engage with her, so it is hard to know how to give her the money. I usually let my husband do it and that is probably cowardly of me.
You have given me a lot to think about here.
I love legumes and veggies and fruits, but carbs are a temptation. In my family, food = love 🙂 And I too and I too am from the ‘clean your plate’ generation. Lots of forces working vs me and longtime habits to overcome. I am a self-aware person and am glad to recognize these patterns in myself. The challenge is, once I know better, to consistently do better. Life is a process…
Hmm, interesting blog verawrites. Lots of things come to mind but the one I will comment on is why are we always hurrying? Did you have an appointment to make? Did you have to be home at a specific time? I would say pick one thing and intentionally change what you normally do. I’m reminded of how I heard someone say that Jesus was never in a hurry (at least from what we learn about him in the Bible). Okay, one more thing. The habits that we like are very hard to break. I don’t think we will really break them or stop doing them and do something else unless we really strongly want to change. If we don’t really “hate” what we normally do, it’s just way too easy to slide back into same old, same old. I speak from experience. Lots of food for thought.
You make a good point, my friend. I don’t like some things I do and ‘wish’ I did them differently – but do I ‘hate’ them? Not enough. Something to pray for, Lord, make me hate the things you hate (in me) and help me to want to change and to work with Holy Spirit to do so. Thanks Tania!