We recently decided to try a different approach to our health. We started using a new kitchen gadget and way of eating. It was really strange, because nothing was added to our diet that was in pill or powder form, neither was it a medicinal addition. We ate all natural foods, and very simply, too. For me, I felt clear-headed. I also was happy. My mood had definitely felt elevated! And I also had more energy, more drive. And it seemed like this was a good idea. Some friends came to stay this weekend, a way of sharing some time with us before we relocate thousands of miles away. We have been close friends for about 27 years or so. Over the weekend, though, we made (my husband and myself) some very poor nutritional choices, veering about as far away from our chosen path as you can get. We had burgers, fried mushrooms, onion rings, sodas, Mexican food with too many chips, a late evening drive through Dairy Queen for some Blizzards, and then bacon and eggs breakfasts…on and on it went! Decadent, not fasting at all (our friends are Protestant and do not keep the fast at all), and definitely not good for us. By Sunday afternoon, I felt miserably sick. My stomach was roiling, I was tired, and cranky, and felt wiped out. I slept miserably on Saturday night, as well. And I could not help but think that our step back into our former habits was completely to blame. Our new habits had just begun last Tuesday….it will just be a week tomorrow…and we failed miserably at keeping our new ways going, in favor of accommodating some dear friends. The interesting thing was that the male counterpart in this friendship is diabetic and his numbers stunk so bad, and he knew it, so he did not even want to test his blood! The four of us knew we had been very, very bad!!
It is such a glorious day today! Spring is here and the sun is out, and I am drinking my morning “Berry Blast” and determined to right my wrongs of the weekend. I realized that my wrongs, although dietary, are significant. These wrongs were gleefully carried out, with barely a nod to my resolutions about my diet. Our friends had also made great strides in their approach to eating and were feeling much healthier. We get together and bam! We are eating bad foods again, being decadent, and it was obviously not in our best interests. How did this happen so easily?
In life, I have been patiently shown, over and over again, that we have paths to choose from. One is good for us, one is not. One path is towards God, one is not. One is towards life, one is towards death. Life is about choices. We make them every day about a multitude of things. I chose very poorly this weekend and felt the physical remorse of doing so. What else am I so easily willing to compromise? Well, none of us went to Church. Our friends are Protestant, so we did not push attending Divine Liturgy, even though it was Palm Sunday on the western calendar, and we are now in Holy Week. How did we allow the pressure of visitors cause us to compromise our path to God? Our culture pressures us every day to compromise our walk towards eternity with God. I had a conversation with my son last night about raising his son, how he wants to rear him, what values are important for him to share with his son, and how he does not want interference with the process from others. It was an enlightening conversation and another facet to that conversation was it got me to thinking about God, Our Father. How much He wants to share with us, without outside influence, without anyone interfering with that process. And it made me just stop. Here we are, at the end of Lent, and I feel once again like I failed miserably. I have, yes, made some wonderful strides and have learned so very much. Elder Thaddeus has become, for me, like an intimate friend and spiritual father, and I feel blessed he is in my life. Keeping silent has also had a profound influence on my life, my heart, my head, my soul. I am blessed in that, as well. I discovered something that is working for my betterment in health, and that is also a blessing (as I take another swig of my morning “Berry Blast”!!) But how easily that wide, decadent path to death enticed me back in. How weak I am and how much I need God, in every aspect of my life, every day. I need to develop a stronger backbone, a way of saying “no” in a loving manner, when situations or people entice me away from the person I am choosing to become. My “Berry Blast” this morning is more than a healthy alternative to bacon and eggs. It is a rallying point for me and as I look at it, sitting here on my desk, I am inspired to pick myself back up and re-enter the race. Christ Himself promises us that He is waiting for us. There are innumerous examples in Scripture where God welcomes those “late to the Supper.” The one I love is where He pays the workers in His vineyard the same wage, regardless of when they show up to work. Some of the workers, having been toiling all day, are jealous the late-comers get the same wage and He tells them: “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20: 13-16) And I cling to that promise, that although I may be late, I will still be paid the same – salvation. I work and work on myself, and am continually finding myself at the short end of the stick and yet I am comforted by knowing that I am still participating. And I am also comforted by the fact that I knew, within hours, that I had lost my will and caved to the pressures of being with friends. I had not insisted that we go to a salad bar! I caved and went to a ’50s burger diner, had miserable food (horrible service, as well) and then paid for it for two days afterwards! But I knew; I realized exactly where my error was and it has not left me since. I also knew, with a sinking heart, that we should have invited them to participate with us, rather than worry that it would drive them away, on Palm Sunday. We lost an incredible opportunity to share our Byzantine faith with some very dear friends. The remorse is palatable today.
Today, I choose to step into the Light of the love of God once more. To strap on the armor of God, and to battle my weaknesses and the wiles of the enemy. God is working so hard this Lent to change my heart. I know that change is happening, because my awareness has grown! I knew when I slipped – I knew it. Before my challenging Lent, I simply would have fallen and not really noticed, because I would have been back in what has been a “comfort zone” for years and years. I think that one of the lessons from this weekend is that I need to stop trying to please other people. I need to focus, instead, on living this Psalm: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14). This is basically telling me that only what is pleasing to God should concern my heart, my behavior, my actions. I also believe, and have shared before, that if I can entrench deeply into my heart these precepts of God; if I can live according to His Word, emblazoned on my heart, then all these other things will also be a blessing to God. My interaction with friends, family members, parishioners, strangers I meet along my way, will be so very different because they all will feel the light emanating from me; the Light of Christ. And all will be well.