Today’s guest post comes from Natalie Bishay, a freshman at UCLA studying biochemistry and member of the church of St. Verena and the Three Holy Youth. Natalie is also a “PK” – that is “priest kid” – as she is the daughter of the reverend Fr. Gregory Bishay. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
We recently concluded the season in the church known as “the Holy 50 days” – that is the 50 days going from the Resurrection of Christ (aka, Easter) to the descent of the Holy Spirit (aka, Pentecost).
While this season was meant to be a time where we rejoice because Christ is here with us in all of His glory, unfortunately for many of us, it is seen as a time of “recovering” from Lent and soon becomes a breeding ground for sin.
Why is that?
Maybe it’s because we feel like the time for spiritual growth is done now and we can get back to our “normal lives.” I know personally I’ve definitely regressed spiritually since Lent ended. The main reason for this is the issue of pushing down the Spirit inside of us in order to fill our bodily pleasures that we refrained from so diligently during Lent – we feel like we’ve earned the right to fulfill them. The devil easily spins the comfort of the Resurrection into sin while simultaneously getting us on board.
But the fast should NEVER truly end for a Christian. After all, what is the real reason we fast? There are plenty (as any priest will gladly tell you) but one of the primary reasons is for the sake of controlling the flesh.
You see, we’re at a constant war within ourselves: what the spirit wants and what the flesh wants. And I know this isn’t news; we all know that St. Paul says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But from these two rival forces arise two lives we lead, and I myself am a leader of two lives first and foremost.
It’s not that I’m not trying, however. It’s that I resolve to become better almost on a daily basis, yet something infiltrates my resolution – a thought, a boy (I’m an 18-year-old college student, but not making excuses), an argument, etc. I allow my mind to become affected by the stupid, petty little things the devil likes to employ to distract me from my bigger goal of strengthening my spirit and my relationship with God.
And that might be because I stop the spirit of fasting. I stop putting Christ at the beginning of my day and I allow everything to become gray, so to speak, instead of the clear black-and-whites put forth by the Church and the Scriptures. I allow the annoying little demon of my subconscious on my left shoulder to say “well, this thought isn’t THAT bad, at least you’re not actually doing anything” or “come on, he’s super cute!” or “she had no reason to aggravate you in the first place; you were right to get upset.”
These gray areas are a result of this resolution not being accompanied by any clear cut goals or real desire to change. This is because of the lack of knowledge of God Himself and what He wants for us. Sure, He's real in the sense that He created heaven and earth and the stars and all of those things. He gave His only-begotten Son. Sure. But who is He? What has he done for each individual, personally?
I think, if every person sat down and really, really looked at everything God is doing for him/her, we wouldn't be able to fathom the double lives we are leading. And I was there, and sometimes still am there, till I recognize the inconsistencies in my actions.
As young adults, now we're making our own decisions. We're free to do whatever we want. So people decide to "live life to the fullest," with fullest as an ambiguous word intentionally, because each person decides what "full" is, correct? We're filled with the Holy Spirit after Baptism and Chrismation and we become the sons and daughters of God Himself, yet we don’t see this as enough fulfillment. We have to "experience things, make our own mistakes." We justify EVERYTHING based on OUR individual idea of what's good and what's not. We come so close to the line, then when we want to go past the line, we just move the line.
But here’s a news flash: the line has become a dot to us. We have moved so far past it. We push it to the point of us leaving our spiritual life so far behind us and our worldly life just ends up snowballing.
So my message to myself and to my fellow young adults is to STOP. Recognize the gray areas, rub your eyes, and see it for what it is – indifference, lust, bodily pleasures, substance use, cursing, laziness, pride, jealousy, the list goes on. It’s time to eliminate the gray and live just one life – a life after Christ’s own heart, a life with the spirit of fasting.
That’s the life you were created to live.