Maybe you can relate: It is easier to do without if what I want isn’t close enough to tempt me.
I don’t shop if I don’t want to spend. I don’t get donuts if I don’t want to eat sugar. I don’t have soda in the house if I don’t want to drink carbonated soft drinks.
It’s much harder to deny my desires when what I long for is within reach.
I have practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting on and off for over a decade. And I have learned a great deal about myself, about desire and about how very weak I am, in my own strength, to continue long on a path of self-denial. Who can resist chocolate when it’s right there in front of you???
When I perceive that God is calling me to give up food or something else for a span of time to focus on Him and on spiritual growth, I can prepare myself.
I can pick a date. I can arrange my home and schedule and commitments to accommodate what I know will be the challenges associated with the battle that is to ensue.
But there is a difference between choosing to fast and being forced to starve.
For those who live in parts of the world overrun by famine, choice has been removed. They don’t go without food because they desire to exercise personal or spiritual discipline–it has been decided for them. And many times, there is not one thing they can do about it except to hang on and try to survive.
Grieving my son feels like an odd and uncomfortable mix of both scenarios.
I certainly had no choice in the matter–I was not consulted, prepared or given any warning. And he is gone. Gone, gone, gone.
Yet I am surrounded by memories, physical connections and constant reminders of the one I miss.
I must live everyday at precisely the intersection of desire and self-control.
No, I cannot “have” him back. When I am thinking correctly, I don’t want him back here in this broken world with broken people. If what Scripture says is true (and I preach to myself that it is) then he is experiencing joy and beauty that fills his heart so full there’s no room for missing me.
But the heart wants what the heart wants.
And my heart wants my family circle whole again. My heart wants to see how Dominic would use his gifts and talents to impact the world. My heart wants my surviving children and my husband and my extended family not to have to carry this heavy grief load and to be free to live life without the intimate knowledge of the darkness of death and loss.
Every day I am forced to acknowledge my heart’s desire and then exert the self-control necessary to get out of bed and participate in daily life.
It takes so much energy. I am often tempted to give up and give in.
This fast is the most strenous ever thrust upon me.
I know in my head my desires will never be fulfilled this side of heaven. This passionate longing won’t end until I am reunited with Dominic and ultimately, all my loved ones in the Presence of Jesus. And I have no idea when that might be.
So I must focus my thoughts and fix my heart’s affection on the promise of God in Christ: that He will redeem every broken thing, that He will restore every lost treasure and that resurrection will rule.
Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”
Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.
Isaiah 35:1-7 MSG