I am not afraid to admit that fasting is my least favorite spiritual discipline. With all of the decadence that surrounds me every time I leave the house, a simple trip to the post office can make my best fasting aspirations falter. Who even knew that Smokey Bones, Famous Dave’s, and even Burger King really smelled that good in the air wafting from restaurant to enclosed car with lightening speed? Smells, sounds, and environmental factors that I don’t even notice on an average day, call out to me when I choose to fast. For a few years I justified my struggle with fasting declaring to myself that fasting is a spiritual gift that some people are just better at than others. While to a degree this may be true, this logic was as faulty as saying exercise isn’t good for everyone, just some. We know that people with health issues, pregnant ladies, and diabetics have to streamline their fasting and use wisdom, but for the rest of us average saints, we really don’t have very many excuses to offer up to God that are legitimate.
I was decent at fasting as a teenager and in my early twenties. In fact, every week I went a minimum of one 24 hour period without food and liquid except water and embarked on my first prolonged fast without food and liquid except water in my very early twenties. I was shocked to find that going 3 plus days with nothing but water really wasn’t as hard as I had imagined. Sure, it was no picnic in the park and sure I wasn’t the most energetic human during these time periods, but I discovered I could do it! Jonathan and I began a tradition of beginning our new years with a prolonged fast, a tradition that we continue and lead our church to do, and I was excited. When I turned 24, I got pregnant with my first child and fasting took a back seat. I do not think it is wise for pregnant women to abstain from food. This may just be my opinion, but I think that God had no problems with that. I went straight from pregnancy to nursing and anyone that has nursed can attest to the fact that your appetite could beat out any Olympic athlete’s appetite. After this period of 2 years of pregnancy and nursing, I found that fasting became the unwanted friend again in my life. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I began to incorporate the weekly 24 hour fast into my life again, but I just couldn’t get back in the swing of extended fasting. Thankfully for me and my flesh, I got pregnant again. Whew!! I was justified. Another two year period of pregnancy and nursing had saved me from this spiritual discipline.
While this blog was not intended to be a confessional, I guess it has become one. I just want to encourage people that it is normal and even okay to struggle sometimes. We are human!!! I was inspired for this blog by my Bible reading this morning. While reading in Genesis, I was struck with a series of verses that I have read numerous times before and that had not stood out to me like they did today. Hagar, Sarah’s maid and Abraham’s mistress was able to say to God, “You see me and I see you”!! She called the spring where she had cried out to God “the God who sees me spring”. This simple revelation by a lowly member of society, a mere maid, who was not only a maid but a fornicator and the incubator for an illegitimate child made me realize that God sees me and all of my randomness. He knows all my insecurities, he knows all my struggles and yet, He sees me! He cares!
I am convinced that this scripture stood out to me because this confessional has a happy ending. The word of God becomes alive and organic in your life and heart when you’re dedicated to spiritual disciplines. I decided at the end of 2009 that I was tired of my excuses and I was tired of just fasting one day a week and that in 2010 I was going to reinstitute a strict fasting discipline in my life. My goal this year is to fast 3-5 day stretches at a time every single month in addition to my day a week. You don’t have to be Moses or Jesus and go 40 day stretches. Fasts like those have to be divinely and spiritually inspired and led and really ought to be under a Doctor’s supervision. I’m happy to say that God has proved himself in these time periods of 3-5 days. It has been unreal to me the doors He has opened, the scriptures He has shown me, and the way my spirit has been overwhelmed. I have had more spontaneous Bible studies with strangers in random places than I have had in years. This, as a side note, works out quite well in my favor since we are starting a church. I have been amazed at the doors to the unchurched that have been opened to me. Certainly giving up that Chipotle Burrito Bowl a few days a month has been worth the God encounters I have had.
I can’t explain to you in the physical why fasting works. It really makes no sense except that studies have proven that people that incorporate fasting into their lives live longer, healthier, and happier. God has a really funny way of proving things in the physical that we should already know in the spiritual. The key to fasting is simple, you must read your bible, pray, and be constantly meditating. If you don’t do these things, fasting is nothing but a way to be really hungry, tired, and crabby. It seems simple, but trust me; I’ve tried a three day fast in which I didn’t pray anymore than I do on a normal day. It was crazy. I justified it because my two toddlers are constantly harassing me and if you think prolonged periods of intercessory prayer are easy when you’re alone with 2 little boys 24/7, you’ve got something else coming! I made a pact with God in addition to my fasting pact in 2010 that my bible reading and prayer life would also improve. They have! God is addicting. The Bible is addicting. Prayer is addicting. Fasting is addicting. I promise. I didn’t believe it either until I had tried. That is why in the book of Acts they said they were “addicted” to the ministry of the saints. I believe it! It is like crack. Go several days having the power of God manifest in your life and prove my point. You’ll never go back to ordinary. I’m 25% of the way through reading my bible cover to cover for the 2nd time this year. From now on, I’m never just going to read my bible through once a year. I use to find this acceptable in my life. No more.
Ministering to and loving others is amazingly easy when it is an overflow of a well of joy that you have dug up in your own life. I challenge you to go beyond ordinary. Really become radical and God will show you, He really is the God who sees! He sees you, now go out and make it a point in your life to really see Him.
As a side note: The book “Fasting” by Jentzen Franklin is a great read explaining reasons for, types of, and ways to fast.