By Semhal Hadgu
55 days. 1320 hours, 79200 minutes. A relatively short amount of time, only about 15% of one year (I know right, typical Stats major). But a lot can happen in any given period, whether 10 minutes or 10 years. And even more can happen when you’re restricting yourself from certain aspects of life.
55 is special because that is the number of days that Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Christians like myself fast for Lent (56 is also special, shoutout Esco).
One main component of the fast consists of not eating meat or dairy, but in my opinion that part is easy because there is more to it than abstaining from specific foods. Other parts of the fast that some choose to partake in include (but are not restricted to) abstaining from: drinking alcohol, smoking, engaging in sexual relations, listening to music other than mezmur (gospel). Because fasting is such a personal, spiritual experience, everyone practices it in their own way — I’m lucky enough to have lots of friends and family members to discuss and share this experience with.
Allow me to get a bit introspective.
I have been doing this fast for the past 8 years now, but this has by far been the most challenging one. I blame some of it on college, with the unlimited freedom and constant surrounding temptations. It can get frustrating at times, even when I’m not fasting; I struggle with wanting to better myself spiritually while also fully enjoying the prime of my life.
I’m not extremely religious in terms of knowing facts or following teachings, and I encounter obstacles with my faith. But at the same time, college has pushed me to become closer with God, and my trust in Him is unwavering. So in the past few years this fast has turned into something much more meaningful than a strict vegan diet. I’ve restricted myself from other aspects of life that many, including myself, believe they simply cannot live without. And believe me when I say I’ve been tempted to break my fast on multiple occasions, but my God is great and knows that sometimes when I see signs I refuse to read them.
So, He keeps me going.
This fast challenges me and shows me the importance of dedication and how it applies to all parts of life.
Besides that, it helps me maintain a balance between my Ethiopian identity and my American identity, a scale that can quickly tip over when growing up as a first-generation American.
Today’s society is fast-paced, and it’s important to take a step back from everything to breathe and reflect. Moreover, struggle is undeniably necessary for growth; it is easy to give up when comfort is so familiar and appealing, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. As my fast is coming to an end, I’ve learned to be patient in tribulation, and to be patient with myself and with others.
The beauty of struggle is the reward of growth, and I absolutely love it.
Endnote: I’m writing this on a whim at 3:18am on a Monday morning, but I feel that it’s necessary. And I know I said the food isn’t the hard part, but feel free to send some chicken nuggets my way April 9th!