Hungering for God?
I am fasting on Fridays during Lent this year. I have never fasted for anything other than a cholesterol test in my life, so this feels like I am going into unknown and scary territory, but part of our Run For God class is about getting out of our comfort zone. Also, I am too selfish to give up sweets or meat or caffeine for 6 weeks, so this seemed easier. And it only involves missing breakfast and lunch, which seems pretty minor considering the number of people that live off of one meal a day every day all around the world.
Last week was my first Friday to start and I didn’t know what to expect. Would the heavens open up and God speak directly to me, giving me some great message to reward me for this sacrifice of not eating for half a day? Or would I simply pass out from lack of food? On Thursday I warned my coworker, Donna, that I might be grumpy on Friday because I was going to be fasting. I told her I might have to go into the “closet” to pray if I got too irritable. We started joking about going into the “closet” when things and people started getting on our nerves.
My first test came on Thursday when I was invited out to lunch on Friday – keep in mind that I work in a school and we never get to go out to lunch! Also, when people do go out, they sometimes forget to ask the media specialist, so I was very thankful to be included – then had to decline, saying that I was fasting. I hope I didn’t sound self-righteous.
Knowing that the Devil likes to throw up stumbling blocks when we try to push ourselves spiritually, I was prepared for the day to be rough on Friday, and it did have its challenges. About a third of our 8th graders were on a trip to Savannah and part of those that chose not to go or couldn’t afford it were in the media center doing research with their teacher that day. Now we have great kids at Valley Point, but it was a Friday when half the class was off having a great time and the ones in the media center were not real thrilled to be making a brochure about going to Savannah, so they were a little rowdy. Then my new check-in scanner decided to quit working and I had to spend my entire plan time on the phone with the tech guy, not my favorite thing.
At lunchtime Donna came out of her office and told me I could go into the “closet” now, since I had said I would go pray during lunch. I went into our back room and when I tried to pray, all I could think of was that I was hungry! I took my phone with me so that I could look at Bible verses, but felt more tempted to surf the web. I forced myself to think of things to pray about, but being still only reminded me that I had not eaten.
The rest of the day was okay, but I had a hard time focusing ( which is a struggle for me anyway!) and hurried home so that Keith and I could go out for dinner. By the time I had eaten dinner, I felt normal again and it was like I hadn’t even gone through the fast.
I started wondering what the purpose of it was supposed to be and if I had not done something wrong. I couldn’t say I felt any closer to God from skipping breakfast and lunch for one day. I might have felt less spiritual because I was a little light headed. I started looking up fasting and came across a very informative sermon by John Wesley on the subject that had been modernized in its language by Tony Capoccia . Here is a link if you are interested:
One of the things that struck me in Wesley’s sermon was how often “prayer and fasting” are mentioned in the Bible – and how we never do it! Jesus doesn’t say “if you fast” in his Sermon on the Mount, but “when you fast”. All through the Old and New testaments, people routinely fasted when big decisions needed to be made or when there was a crisis or just as part of their spiritual discipline. After Lent came along in the 900’s , people fasted every day for 40 days, eating only the evening meal! That made my one day a week seem pretty lame in comparison.
I have been a Christian all my life, attended a Southern Baptist college and seminary, worked on a church staff and as a hospital chaplain, and I have never known anyone who fasted on a regular basis. Or maybe if they did, they listened to Jesus’ admonition to “do so in secret”, something I have already blown by talking and blogging about it!
So today begins my 2nd Friday fast, something Rev. Katie told me John Wesley did every Friday throughout his life. Since I have to go to work, I can’t spend my whole morning in prayer, but not getting my meals together will give me more time before school to pray and I will try again in the “closet” at lunchtime. Maybe I will draw closer to God this week.
Making the effort to do this reminds me of a prayer by Thomas Merton that I heard many years ago and has so often captured my feelings when trying to do “what is right”. Hopefully by making this small sacrifice of food for my body, the desire to please God will in fact please Him.