Bringing the ax down on coffee
Yesterday was not my finest hour.
By noon, I was sitting in my office in tears. My thoughts were disorganized, and even my behavior didn't make much sense. I wanted to close my office door and spend some quiet time in meditation, but for some reason I went into the kitchen and heated up my lunch vegetables instead. It was like my mind and my body weren't communicating. Realizing that I had heated up my food, I felt obligated to eat it. I ate my veggies so fast that I burned my mouth. It never occurred to me to pray while my broccoli cooled. My critical thinking skills were like rats from a sinking ship.
I was having trouble holding coherent conversations at work so I thought I might fare better if I moved operations to my home office. I sent out an email and headed home. I had to make a quick stop at the store on the way and by the time I was done, I had these crazy pains in my gut. By the time I got home, I thought I really did have the flu.
Day 2 was not going well.
I recognized that what I was experiencing was good old-fashioned caffeine withdrawal. I was detoxing. In addition to being in a very bad mood, I was also having trouble focusing on the tasks at hand. It hardly seemed good to me - or godly for that matter - to be cranky and unproductive. It seemed counter to the spirit of the fast. But then I worried that I was just rationalizing my way to a loop hole. There was a cup of coffee left in the pot that my husband had made for himself this morning. I weighed the matter and decided that having half a cup of coffee would be the lesser of the transgressions. So I poured myself about 4 oz, added no sweetener or cream and sat down to pray. Within 10 minutes, I was fine. My mind was clear, my body had settled down and I didn't feel like I wanted to slap people. Which is generally a good thing.
For dinner I had baby spinach with grape tomatoes, avocado, and carrots. I squeezed a little lemon juice over the salad. I didn't know the protocol about salt and pepper, but I sprinkled a little bit on top.
I assessed the problem of my caffeine withdrawal and realized that I was really throwing it back before I started fasting. I have two cups before breakfast, then I usually have two cups of green tea before lunch and then another half cup of coffee after lunch. And I went to none in one day. Bad idea.
I did do some research before I began but the problem I ran into when doing a Google search was that so many people market the Daniel fast as a "diet" that I had a hard time culling through and finding the useful and true information I needed. I don't want a "Daniel Plan" cookbook. Really? Fruits and vegetables. You don't need a cookbook. Maybe a steamer...
Anyway, a few of the sources I found that seemed trustworthy indicated that a little olive oil and few natural nuts on my dinner salad may be OK. Of course, I love nuts and seeds and I never use prepared dressing on my salad anyway, so it started to feel like not so much of a sacrifice.
The spirit of the fast
I untangled myself from the questions of protocol and went back to the spirit of the fast, which is two-fold: To subdue the flesh in order to become more sensitive to the spiritual, and to spend more time in prayer thereby putting that sensitivity to good use by actually listening to God more. After all, what constitutes a sacrifice for me isn't even a challenge for other people. I can't imagine doing the full fast, for example, where you would drink only water for two or three weeks. I didn't even know people could live three weeks without food. Maybe that's the point.
So as I began Day 2 of my fast, I took advantage of God's great mercy and I had 4 oz of coffee with no sweetener or cream during my morning prayer time. Right now, that falls more into the realm of medicine than beverage. I am hoping my symptoms alleviate today because I have to be able to work and I don't want to be cranky and I just couldn't manage it all yesterday. But I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I'm just going to reposition myself, and begin again.
The fruit of the Spirit
Even with all of the struggles I had yesterday, I had my first great epiphany, aka revelation from God: my thought life needs some real work. I became aware that I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy sparring with my thoughts. Mostly, they are about managing my life. At work, I am usually focused on several projects on one time. I might be writing a press release, producing a video, setting up an HTML email, and documenting a marketing strategy all in one day. And I have all of them open on my desk and I juggle. If I write this draft and then send it out for review, then I can get started on the video concept and while the rest of the team is making their notes I can send the email out for approval and by then I'll probably have feedback on the press release and I can write a second draft, and on and on it goes, until I run out of time. Because I never run out of work.
Life is like a busy job that way. No matter how hard you hustle, or how much you do, there is always more waiting, always more pressing to get done. And while juggling might be a good skill (and a necessary one) in my work, I have to learn to lay that down in my personal life. I do that at work so I don't miss deadlines or forget to include the right people at the right time. But that habit has carried itself over into my home life, my family, my relationships, my dreams. "If I do this, then this will happen and then I'll do that," is actually prideful. It assumes that I am in complete control and that I know the ramifications of the decisions I make and the actions I take. I don't. There is no way I can predict the outcome of any of my actions, let alone all of them. Approaching life that way demonstrates a gross lack of trust in God because if I really and truly trusted Him, I wouldn't have the need to try and manage everything or try to gain control over everything. I've got some work to do.
So that's the real first fruits of my fast. Not a bad day after all.