Chapter 7: Holy Fast: Hungering for Christ
I do not know about you, but as a child the most I did as far as fasting would be when my parents would decide for us that we would not eat anything between meals and give up candy for Lent. Although a good practice, I cannot say that it brought me closer to God through Lent.
I’m thinking back probably 15 years ago. I was hungry to get to know God more. I am a vast reader and love authors like James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell (so not churchy reading!). I’d always be at the bookstore getting the newest book that came out. So one year I decided that I needed to read more scripture and faith-based books. My “fasting” that year was to not read anything that was not purely faith based or scriptural. It was hard but I managed it. I noticed a difference in me at the end of the Lent – so I went back to that same practice the next Lent. It was only a few years later that I came to realize that through this Lenten practice I had come to know God in a completely new way and that He was changing my heart to focus on Him (even outside of Lent!) rather than on the other things that had taken precedence. That first year of fasting started something in me that I could not have done on my own.
The author beautifully points out how our body and soul are one, how “the soul animated the body. The body expresses the soul.” When we fast we deny our bodies something that it wants, not as punishment but to focus it back to God. As I reflect on this I think of those years that I “fasted” during Lent from “fun” reading. It wasn’t that hard to make the choice and I planned ahead to make sure I had some good options available for reading during Lent. I did it initially because I wanted to learn more – I’m not sure when I came to realize that what was happening within me wasn’t my work, but His. Yet as I went through those 40 days of fasting from fiction I was intentionally turning towards God in ways that I would not have had I not been fasting from my other reading. Denying myself the pleasure of reading made room in my day, in my life, in my heart for God to enter in and do some spring cleaning! Fasting from food is the same – it will open up space in our day, in our life and in our hearts for God to enter in.
The last few years this idea of fasting as a spiritual practice keeps creeping into my consciousness in many different ways at all different times. When I have talked to people about fasting I hear things about intermittent fasting or various diets that incorporate fasts. I’m not looking for a fast to lose weight – well maybe I am , but for me the weight I’m looking to lose is the mental and emotional luggage I hold onto that fills up my heart and prevents me from letting God do what God does best – change our hearts. I’ve been doing some reading about fasting and I think I’m ready to consciously focus on fasting from food as a spiritual practice this year! After reading this chapter again, I am renewed in my desire to fast and allow God to work on my heart.
During Lent I will continue this blog. My hope is to share with you my successes and failures regarding fasting as a spiritual practice. I hope you will join me!
What will you fast from this year for Lent?