In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved
This was published in this month’s Chicago Crescent.
I am ashamed to admit it, but as Ramadan approached this year, I felt no small amount of dread. The day is really long, and the weather is really hot. If I am busy at work, it does help to take my mind off the fact that I can’t eat until 8 PM or so. Yet, even if I have a long day at work, almost always, I come home and just sit around waiting to eat.
Then, when the fast is over, and I can eat and drink, I barely have enough time before I stand in the night vigil prayers. When those are finished, I go to bed and…I am fasting again. And if I get up and have a pre-dawn meal, even if it is just a drink of water, I frequently have a hard time falling back asleep. Then, when I do finally get to sleep, I have to wake up for work.
Yup, Ramadan this year has been really hard, and I am ashamed to say it. If I truly had my head on straight, I would wish that every month is Ramadan, becuase of the innumerable blessings and mercy with which this month comes. If I truly had my head on straight, I would be fasting with smiling face and ecstatic heart. If I truly had my head on straight, I would want to fast even more days of the year than simply the month of Ramadan willingly and happily.
But, I am a human being, and this is part of my ugly weakness that I show to my Lord each and every day. And this is truly shameful, because God has always shown me His Most Beautiful Face. Even in my darkest hour, the death of my child, He was there to comfort me through my pain and sorrow. Yet, during this month, God has shown me an even more beautiful face than that to which I am accustomed.
He has showered His grace, and mercy, and blessings without end. He has opened up the gates of Paradise and closed the gates of Hell. He has chained the Devil and his minions so that they cannot disturb us while we fast. For every step that we take in hunger and thirst for His sake, He brings us even closer to Him and takes us into His loving, soothing arms. And when we meet Him again, He will reserve a special place for those of us who fasted during our earthly lives. The grace and mercy of Ramadan is limitless, and I ashamed I look forward to it ending so I can drink my coffee again at 10 AM.
In fact, God knows that fasting is hard to do: otherwise, He would not have said in the Sacred Hadith that “Fasting is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.” The Prophet knew that fasting is hard, for he said that, “For the fasting person is two times of joy: when he breaks his fast and when he meets his Lord.” The Qur’an acknowledges that fasting is difficult to do, for it says:
For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. (2:184)
Yet, whenever I think about how hard it is having to fast in August, then July, then June, I bow my head in shame, because, the Lord never gets tired from bestowing on me His gifts. He never bores from hearing me whine to Him about all the things I want in this life. He never turns His beautiful face away from me, even though I come to Him with the ugliness of my human hypocrisy. He never ceases to be the Precious Beloved, even though I am frequently an ungrateful sinner.
And this love, and grace, and mercy, and beauty is multiplied again, and again, and again, and again during the month of Ramadan. During each of its long, hot days, I bask and bathe in the warmth of His Love, and Grace, and Mercy, and Beauty. And I want it to go away? I wish for the days of Ramadan to go by as quickly as possible? I want the next month to come as soon as possible? All so I can eat and drink during the day?
What a miserable transaction!
That is why I am ashamed. But, it is what it is, and I am what I am: a weak servant in the Hands of a Merciful Lord. And all I ask is that He accepts all that I have done in this month for His sake. I ask that He accepts my fasts, despite the wishes in my heart that Ramadan would finish quickly. I ask that He accepts my prayers, with all the frowns on my face for how tired I am going to be the next day. I ask that He accepts me into His fold, despite my horrific ingratitude.
But most of all, I ask that He forgives me. I ask that He forgives me for not fasting with a gleaming face, because I am pleasing my Lord so much by fasting for His sake. I ask that He forgives me for not waiting with bated breath for the month of Ramadan to come, because He loves the fast so much. I ask that He forgives me for not being happy that Ramadan is in the summer, for a longer fast means a longer period of time in His service. I ask that He forgives me for wanting this month to end so quickly, just so that I can eat lunch with my colleagues and drink a diet coke during the company golf outing.
Lord, You are so Beautiful, and I am so weak. I admit my weakness to You, and all I can do is ask for Your Grace. You are everything, and I am nothing. Accept me despite who I am, and I will do my best to stay true to Your path. And that includes fasting in the long, hot, dog days of summer. I will try my best to keep a smiling face.