When I drive the speed limit, people behind me have to go slower. This is a weird element to the disciplines…they can’t be all about me. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” In what other ways do the disciplines affect others? When I fast lunch, some food entrepeneur has to go without my money. When I play guitar, anyone nearby has to either endure or move. No man is an island.
Yesterday, day 12 of 40, I learned that many veterans upon returning from war are turning to clergy for guidance. Many times, especially in WV, they come to folks like me before going to a psychologist. This is a challenge to me. When we invaded Iraq, I was living in NYC. I had joined the peace marches and passed out fliers decrying the run-up to war. The plan was that whenever the invasion started, protesters were to gather in Time Square. Surely, this affects the kind of care I can give to veterans, military families and those preparing to deploy. It’s strange, because I do not regret going down to Times Square, though I recognize just how impotent such an act was. But I grieve the obstacles that exist between me, who decries war, and the culture, which tolerates if not condones if not glorifies the war. The call to discipline is not just to stop eating lunch ever-so-often, it is to be perfect as God is perfect; it is to be merciful, despite philosophical or political differences; it is to love my neighbor as myself whether they are friend or enemy; it is to love in deed and action, not just in words. Nevertheless, accepting war flies in the face of the gospel.
It is notable that scripture outlines the desired effect of our spiritual disciplines. “Is this not the fast I choose…” I don’t skip lunch to lose weight. I don’t drive slower to be safer. In fact, perhaps these disciplines are futile as they have not led me to be more merciful, or more vigilant against oppression, or more effective in destroying the mechanisms of hate, greed and oppression. Maybe I should just quit the whole process.
1a) Driving the Speed Limit–Did well, even to a meeting and back. 4:4
1b) Foul language–One slight failure in an otherwise good day. Since I am writing this the following day and don’t want to be discouraged, I’ll call that a 3:4
2) Fasting Lunch–Aforementioned meeting included lunch…and cake. 1:4
3) Giving up Facebook–I saw an article that I liked and used the Share function to pass it along. But I didn’t even look. 3:4
4) Reading–Did a section of Ezekiel. It’s a weird book. 4:4
5) Something Strictly between God and Me–4:4
6) Visiting Parishioners–Aforementioned meeting took the morning, a mistake took up the afternoon. 1:4
7) Guitar–I wish. 1:4Image: “Brake Lights” by lets.book