I have made it through another Friday fast and I felt similar to how I feel during a long run or race – I voluntarily put myself through something that was uncomfortable, and at times I asked myself “Why are you doing this?” One good outcome of the fast is that I am searching the Scriptures and writings of learned people for why we are called to fast. A few observations:
“More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’ (Ps. 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear — if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.” Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p67
Friday morning I made a point to have time to read my devotional book and pray. I especially made a point to spend time thinking about what I needed to confess and my “secret sins”. A biggie for me is pride and pride is sneaky and takes many forms. Writing this blog can quickly become prideful and I am constantly praying that I am doing it for God’s purposes. Fasting can quickly become prideful also, so I tried very hard to be aware of that.
” Fasting is a means not only of turning away the wrath of God, but also of obtaining whatever blessings we are in need of.” John Wesley, When You Fast
Like running a marathon, going without food makes me weak and when I am weak and tired, my defenses are down and my true self comes out. I definitely had to fight being impatient and irritable as my day went on, but something else happened also. I found myself leaning on God. Just as I have prayed many times for God to help me through a difficult run, when I felt those hunger pains, I was reminded of why I was empty. It was because I was voluntarily not eating in order to be closer to God, and I asked Him to help me. He got me through.
“Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to p precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them … Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in proper channels. ‘I pommel my body and subdue it,’ says Paul (1 Cor. 9:27).” Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p68
On my run on Saturday, I thought about how I don’t seem to be doing this right – surely I should be feeling more in touch with God after making the effort to deprive myself in this way. What was the point? Then I thought of my friends who had given up sweets for Lent – surely each time they wanted a piece of chocolate they wondered what the point of it was. How does not eating a butterfinger give God glory? One part of it is the discipline. When I am running for several hours, I may not realize what is happening to my body, but it is slowly getting stronger and more used to the distance. In the same way, I am disciplining myself by saying no to food for a short time and hopefully I am growing spiritual muscle.
“Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.” Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p66
Finally, my short fasts have made me aware of all the food around me! Throughout the day I found myself reaching for something to eat out of habit. I am not a person who “forgets” to eat! Even at school I have crackers and cereal bars and peanut butter in case I get hungry. When I look around my kitchen I am appalled by the amount of food I have for just me and Keith – sometimes I don’t have room in my cabinets for all the food. Surely this is sinful. If I have gained a new awareness and compassion for those who go hungry not by choice, then the fasts have been worth it.