This Christmas season was our family’s first experience with the Advent Fast of the Orthodox Church. We officially became Orthodox the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and started the Fast that night. For the next month we went without dairy, eggs and meat, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we also went without fish and olive oil. I walked into Orthodoxy knowing this was what we would do, but I have to admit I didn’t like it very much. My still partly-Protestant brain wanted to protest: I didn’t understand why the Fast was necessary, and I refused to hear any real answers to that question very clearly.
So I grumbled my way into this, as I do into many new things. And, not so surprisingly, I almost enjoyed it and most certainly learned and grew through it. Imagine that: 2000 years of Christianity knew better than I. I know, it happens so rarely that you’re shocked. So was I.
What did I learn? What did I see that I refused to open my eyes to before? Well, more than I think I know right now. But at least thus far, I know from this experience that gluttony is a sin that shows up in every part of my life – not just food (and it is there in spades, by the way). Even though I was able to control my gluttony by participating in the Fast, I didn’t stop to think about how much money I spent to do so, or how much I was spending to celebrate Christmas. I have a long way to go on that one.
The Fast not only showed me this, but it also helped me understand how much we eat controls what else we do. While I wasn’t able to stop myself from spending, I was almost constantly conscious of my attitude toward the Fast and how I was treating others around me. That doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t complain (I did) nor does it mean that I treated everyone as I should have (I didn’t). But I did make an effort to not let the Fast be my excuse for my bad behavior, and with that I tried to not let the complimentary excuses of tiredness and overwork be the reason I was such a witch. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But my awareness increased, and that needed to happen.
Finally, I learned that in my desire to rebel against the Fast, I was trying to do to God what I do to everyone in my life who loves me: push Him away. I wanted to disobey, because then I would know He didn’t really love me (and sometimes to me, that makes sense). But He does love me, and He showed me what my disobedience meant, and for that I am the most grateful. An important barrier came down in that little bit of self-awareness, and I have now one less excuse with which to fool myself when I don’t want to obey, when I don’t want to hear His voice.