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Posts Tagged ‘fasting’

Surprised by Fasting

Our church is holding a three day corporate fast this week in preparation for our annual missions conference, shameless plug (a.k.a., World Mandate).  Danny suggested that in lieu of a food fast, I ought to fast from not blogging.  I agreed, only under the condition that Danny would fast from making me cry.

My own tears aside, I did think it an appropriate time to share a few reflections I had on fasting.  More specifically, I wanted to share a few things that surprised me when I first started fasting as a Christian.

(1)     Time.  It was amazing to me how much more time I had in my day when I refrained from eating.  Even if one is given to eating quickly, the time savings, counting preparation and cleanup, are easily an hour per day, though in my case it was closer to two hours per day.  Leveraging this newfound time to prayer, Scripture reading, meditation or service is a great benefit that I did not anticipate.

(2)    Tape on my watch.  Growing up, my father used to place a small piece of scotch tape over the face of his watch when he needed to remember something during the day.  Depending on your degree of chronological snobbery, this is either the modern equivalent of tying a string to your finger (which, by the way, is extraordinarily difficult to do), or it is the olde tyme way of setting up a reminder in Microsoft Outlook.  Or your Blackberry.  Or your iPhone.  Or any other piece of technology that offers a “holster” accessory.  The food fast was my constant tape over the watch, as it were.  The human body is beautifully engineered for persistence in reminding us that we’re hungry.  I found this especially helpful in using it as a means to remember that God is with me, or to pray a quick prayer of thanksgiving, or consider my present disposition towards the Lord.

(3)    Thankfulness.  This is perhaps unworthy of falling in a “surprise” category, but I was surprised at the intensity of my thankfulness.  I’ve always been thankful for food, and I anticipated thankfulness when I fasted.  However, I can honestly say that my thankfulness for food was forever changed after my first Christian fast some years ago.  Ever since, I am extremely and consistently thankful for God’s generous provision of food in my life.  I’ve noticed that the denial of something is often the key to a better appreciation of it.  Sometimes it takes a cut on your finger for you to realize how often you use that finger, or an illness to appreciate how blessed you are when you feel well.  It can be hard to remember to thank God for things that aren’t, (e.g., thank you that I don’t have a toothache right now), and frankly, such thanks can get ridiculous rather quickly.  If we take a moment to consider the infinite possibilities and contingencies extant in our lives (Molinism, anyone?), our heads quickly explode.  However, it does bear remembrance from time to time that every last inkling of our existence, every atom of good in our lives, is a gift from God.  A professor of mine put it well when he remarked that a plate of hot food proffered to the perpetually satiated often receives modest thanks, if any.  The same plate given to one who struggles to find food receives a world of thanks.  If I were told that I could walk upstairs, I wouldn’t think much of it, but a man who had until recently been confined to a wheelchair would beam with gratitude.  (There’s probably a separate post in here about the redeeming value of suffering, but I’ll save it for the next time Danny chides my reticence.)

(4)    The wheels of pride go round and round.  One final surprise I experienced during fasting was an increasing need to keep my spiritual pride in check.  I would safely venture that most of us struggle with the desire to build ourselves up at some point or another.  Be it through subtle impression management (nonchalantly, “Yeah, I’m fasting today…”), overt boasting (“I fasted for a whole month once!”), or inward self-satisfaction (“I sure am holy.  God must be so pleased with me!”), pride has a way of rearing its ugly head in our lives.  Fasting was one other vehicle my spiritual pride tried to exploit for its own sinful purposes.  I therefore find Jesus’ words in Mt. 6:16-18 helpful to keep in mind during a fast.

The benefits (or surprises) of fasts extend well beyond what I mention here, so I invite you to share your own reflections.  How has fasting (food or otherwise) affected your walk with God in the past?  Has anything surprised you, for good or ill?

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