Earlier this week, a reader asked me to comment on how my Ramadan fast was going physically.
I have to admit that it has become easier over the last week. In general, my body has become used to the hunger and thirst. I’ve had only two “bad” days – one on which I had a headache for much of the day, and another in which I just felt lousy and tired.
I find myself struggling to eat in the morning. I’m simply not hungry that early.
The hardest part of the day for me comes around the 5 o’clock hour. I call it “Crunch Time.” Every day, during Crunch Time, I have one moment in which I seriously question why I decided to fast in the first place. All at once, it seems, my stomach contracts, my throat becomes parched, and the thought arises that I could break my fast prematurely, and it wouldn’t be such a big deal. “After all,” I think to myself, “I’m not a Muslim. This isn’t an obligation for me. Why am I suffering like this when I don’t have to?”
I remind myself that I have made my own commitment to God, and furthermore, I now have an obligation to my blog readers! When I start thinking this way, and begin to pray again, then the moment passes quickly. I find myself re-entering the presence of God, and I feel a kind of supernatural surge of energy flow through me again. Before I know it, the sun is setting and I am able to eat my dates and take my drink of water.
It happens like this almost every day.
Crunch Time is the moment in which I come face-to-face with my own human limitations, the edges of my mortality. I recognize the strength of my appetites and passions. I can see that I have the tendency to take the easy way. I know that I am truly weak.
This is an important aspect of fasting – the recognition of our weakness. With awareness of limits, comes humility. And with humility comes confession, repentance, and … renewal.
Every evening, after Crunch Time, my fasting takes a more joyful turn. I feel as if I have withstood temptation, with God’s help. I feel I have conquered my private demons, and have emerged a stronger, more victorious person.
I think maybe this is a pattern that is repeated continually throughout our lives as we walk with God. We are called forward on the path by God, who leads us through trials as well as blessings. At some point, we face an apparent dead-end. There doesn’t seem to be any way forward. But we are forced to make a decision – to acknowledge our weakness, put our whole trust on God, and keep going anyway … OR … give up and turn back in shame, because we have lost confidence in ourselves and in God.
This is the Crunch Time.
When we push through and keep going, we find rewards that we couldn’t have anticipated. We find, of course, that God goes with us, through the storm, through the fire, through every trial and temptation that can be thrown against us.
So I don’t dread 5 o’clock anymore. I have begun to look forward to it.
Indeed, I thank God for Crunch Time, for I can’t wait to see how I emerge on the other side.