The sun is still hot and few people will be able to eat or drink for four more hours. But my friend is set up at a special Ramadan market to sell her sweet drink with jelly pieces floating on the bottom to those breaking the fast. And amazingly, people take turns to buy the drink in tied bags with straws sticking out of the top.
They will have to wait for hours before they consume their purchase, working their usual jobs in the tropical heat without a drop of water. The truly diligent will be careful not to so much as swallow their own saliva—spitting it out onto the ground so their good deed won’t be ruined.
But when the sun drops below the horizon, they will be ready, with drink bags in hand, to finally gulp. And following their evening Ramadan prayers, they will feast and light fireworks and party.
These friends and neighbors of mine on this island in Indonesia spend the month rising early—by 4 a.m. to cook and eat before the mosque broadcasts the early morning prayer, and the start of another day of fasting. Fast and feast, the cycle continues day after day. Many restaurants close during the day-time hours. School children stay home from school. And anticipation of eating dominates the Facebook statuses of my friends.
I live on the edge of this fasting culture, also careful not to eat or drink when I am outside my home, so as not to offend. I wake early, too, to the drums that kids beat on their walk down my street, becoming an alarm clock to those who are fasting, and those who are not.
I know what it’s like to fast—though I do it for a day, not a month, and I abstain from food, not usually water. But what I mean is, I know what it’s like to soul-fast, living as if I must please God, must abstain from joy, must work and serve and sweat, afraid to even swallow a blessing out of fear. I spit out the God-gift, afraid that my good-deed will be ruined.
I wish I could say that I used to do this soul-fast years ago before I really understood the truth-words in my most precious Book. But it was just yesterday—when I forgot that the fast for me is over, and the feasting has begun.
Any giving up or hard work or good deed I do now should be out of love, not fear, out of a heart full, not empty. I clutch the bag of sweet blessings and don’t need to wait for four hours or 40 years to drink.
For me, for my own thirst, this is important. I must remember that the good deed is not mine, but His. Because my own wrongs and mistakes became His so they are no longer mine.
But also for these, the friends who hunger and fast and fear, I must live daily this truth so that they will see the grace in my own life and open their souls to drink.
Photo credit, Beth Rankin