Like any expedition, there are pitfalls to avoid for a successful adventure to the peak. The same is true in the spiritual life and for your Exodus. There are two pitfalls to avoid as you make your way to freedom: pride and fear.
1. The first pitfall is the sin of pride.
Pride is the most grave of the deadly sins: God’s place is taken by oneself. It leads to self-reliance, but also overwhelming discouragement in the face of failure.
Beware that asceticism can lead to pride. St. Jerome (a 4th century Church Father) writes, “Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection.”
Most men are very excited by the fruits they experience in the first few weeks. But do not take these fruits to be the result of your effort or allow them to become an unnecessary burden to those around you. Remember that this is your Exodus, and not anyone else’s, especially not your spouse’s (if you are married). If she prepares meat for dinner on a fast day, use common sense, lay down your pride, and eat it!
2. The second pitfall is fear, the fear of “failing Exodus.”
My friend Matt Fradd quit Exodus 90 (the first time he did it) after he took a hot shower on day 22. In a conversation we had afterward, I told him that he didn’t need to.
Exodus 90 sets a high standard. But it is not about perfection nor is it sinful to fail the ascetic disciplines. If you are struggling with any of the disciplines, share that with your anchor, get up, and keep going. As you will see as we make our way through the Book of Exodus, the journey to the Promised Land is very far from a straight shot! Why would you expect yours to be different?
Do not be afraid of failing. If fulfilling the daily Exodus regimen fills you with anxiety and/or you struggle with scrupulosity already, I encourage you to set Exodus 90 aside. It may not be for you at this season of your life, and that’s okay. Additionally, if you are struggling with an addiction, I strongly encourage you to speak with a therapist. This is not a sign of weakness, but one of great courage. For what it’s worth, I meet with a therapist every six weeks and have done so for years. Lastly, while Exodus 90 has proven to help many men in the throes of addiction, it is not an addictions program and should not be used as such.
God alone grants deliverance as you read in your reflection on Day 1. Surrender to Him, and you will avoid these pitfalls.