I made a pact with myself and before God this morning that at some point during this day of fasting, I’d write something about it.
It’s 4:06 pm and I have little to say. I’m a bit hungry – not entirely unsurprising given that I was just cooking and couldn’t sample my wares.
Why fast, then?
Well, Jesus assumed that I would and knew that I should. His words in “The Sermon” about fasting carry the modifier “when” not “if” so my room to move is limited.
Mind you, I can explain this away easy enough. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, they were a religious lot and didn’t see fasting as a responsive ‘if’ but a legalistic ‘when’ that should not only be endured, but suffered and advertised. I’m not bound by the same shackles of religiosity as the Pharisees, but have been set free for freedom’s sake. Surely that’s as much rationale as anyone needs!
Yet it’s 4:14 pm and I’m still a little hungry.
At our Dining Table last week, we talked about spiritual disciplines some more. We covered inward disciplines of abstinence like fasting, silence, solitude and frugality, and disciplines of engagement like worship, prayer, study and confession.
Somewhere in there, I heard myself say for the second time in a week, “fasting doesn’t really work for me because I’m quite disciplined and I can manage it on my own and that’s hardly the purpose of a spiritual discipline”.
Each time I’ve reflected on that little self-inflating declaration I’ve considered some recent patterns that have demonstrated the opposite. Behaviours, activities and disciplines that are usually commonplace for me, have become rarities. It’s not volitional but, regardless, the whole “it won’t work, I’m too disciplined” line was sounding a lot bogus.
It’s was time to fast again because what may have been true with a former experience mightn’t be now.
On Thursday night, we said that if a spiritual discipline was ‘easy in the flesh’ then perhaps it shouldn’t be our first port of call when exercising a spiritual discipline. I’ve pondered that thought a little more with my fasting/non-fasting and my fasting today. Here’s what I reckon: any act of discipline, easy or hard, will likely bear the fruit of its intention. The ‘why’ of spiritual discipline, for the one pursuing Jesus, is to draw near to Him. Is it easy or hard? Does it really matter if the intention is established? If the discipline is hard for you, perhaps it will give you more moments to press into Jesus and respond to those ‘draw near’opportunities but only as much as it was your key driver.
If you’re feeling pudgy (as I am right now), a fast won’t do your body any harm. In fact, the feeling of hunger will be quite encouraging for you. If that was my key driver, I’d easily take that as a win.
But here I am, 4:45 pm now, and I’m determined to redeem a physical act for its intended spiritual purpose.
Here’s what I know for sure: God wants me to draw near to Him. My challenge is to prayerfully appropriate the disciplines He’s provided so that they can accomplish His intention for them. He doesn’t want me derailed or hung up on the discipline itself, he wants it to help accomplish its purpose in me: drawing near to Him.
I’m glad I’ve fasted today. It’s caused me to reflect on the ways God provides for me. Amidst a work day, there’s been plenty of other thoughts, too. That’s ok. I won’t let that stop me from fasting. I want this hunger right now, albeit minimal and temporary, to nudge me towards God. To talk to Him some more. To hear his heart a little more.
That happened a little today and this is enough.