I’ve been thinking a lot about fasting for faith these last few months. The seed was planted last year when my daughters began to get excited about Ramadan approaching. I had never understood it before, this anticipation. To me, Ramadan was all about hardship. Fasting. Feeling sick and tired. Pushing yourself to the limits. Giving up and giving away.
But then the seed began to sprout and I came to realize that they were excited about Ramadan because aside from all of the difficulties, it was a time for focusing on God. It was a month long retreat into the glory and power of God’s grace. Absorbing as much of what God’s lessons were teaching us. Focusing on internalizing Gods words so you could put them into action in your life. Realizing the joy of prayer, and how meditative it is when you are not distracted by daily life revives your focus.
Once I started seeing this truth about the gift of Ramadan, my focus began to change. The way I supported my family during their fasting shifted from begrudgingly to joyfully serving. I care for them so they don’t have to think of anything except for praying and focusing on the word of God. My work becomes meditative and the mindfulness feels like prayer.
Since last Ramadan, I’ve been searching for a way to bring that meditative focus into my life. As a non-Muslim, non-practicing Christian, I don’t have a spiritual family to turn to as a guide. I find inspiration from different sources and incorporate them into my daily communion with God.
Last April, as the Christian world prepared for Lent. Two things entered into my world almost simultaneously. I learned about the 40 Days of Faith, and I learned about the Muslims 4 Lent movement. I had known of Christian and Jewish faith leaders participating in Ramadan fasting because of being active in interfaith circles on Twitter, but I had never heard about Muslims reaching across to their Christian friends in a show of solidarity.
Just like I had never really understood the spiritual focus of Ramadan, I also never really understood why Christians fasted during Lent. My religious education never afforded me this detailed insight. Lent was always about giving up something in penance. So, when I learned about the 40 Days of Faith, I thought I would give it a try. Maybe praying in such a focused way would help me experience that meditative focus that I’ve been searching for in my spiritual practice.
So, March 2015, when Ash Wednesday came around and I was reminded of the Lenten Fasting, I decided to participate in Muslims 4 Lent by praying. The 40 Days of Faith has a handbook and a user’s guide and a whole community because it is church centered. But my life isn’t church centered. It’s just me. So, I didn’t follow all of the components. I didn’t attend church. I also didn’t engage with a Daily Bible Guide. I didn’t participate in a special website. I did, however, pray every day. I was able to deeply connect in communion with God during my 40 Days and I talked about it with the woman who introduced me to the 40 Days.
During those 40 days my spirituality flowered into something that I hadn’t witnessed before. The after effects have continued on and are renewed each day in my prayers. I now feel like there is a glow and silken pleasure to every day. Even with the distractions and irritations, things just seem to flow better. I have reached a new bend in my journey and that path is not a deserted wasteland anymore but a field of beautiful blossoms that are blooming and reseeding to multiply and flourish.
During the 30 Days of Ramadan I am choosing to embody agape. I am choosing to bow deeply in prayer in the presence of God and be thankful for my life. I am choosing to pray specifically for the people who are named in my meditative practice, I am choosing to joyfully serve my fasting family and celebrate their renewed spiritual strength and focus. Insha’Allah.
40 Days of Faith link : www.rivernyc.org/prayer/
Muslims 4 Lent link: www.facebook.com/events/
agape link: www.gotquestions.org/agape-love
Kristina ElSayed is a mother of three, a wife, a jeweler and a writer. She creates empowerment jewelry for people of all faiths and spiritual paths at VianneFere and writes about raising Muslim children as a non-Muslim parent. You can read more at My Islamic Life and AltMuslimah. Kristina can be reached through her website or on twitter @myislamiclife.