Lessons from the fast.
Our week of fasting was interesting. I am not naturally inclined toward fasting, it is not something toward which I am drawn. The fact is, I like food. I like the smell, the taste, the texture. There is very little that I do not like about food. Beth and I have fasted in the past, including two Daniel fasts in conjunction with our church, and the infrequent day of fasting through the years. So I am somewhat familiar with fasting, at least to some degree, but I do not look forward to the times I go without food.
I think I was looking for some sort of “breakthrough” moments like I experience during our week-long missions trip to the Dominican Republic. That was not a mountaintop experience, but more of a consistent, gradual healing of my spirit, one that I have needed for some time.
But that was not what I experienced during the fast. That fact alone was a bit disconcerting, which is my fault for setting up expectations and not just waiting for the week to unfold.
The hunger was a great reminder to pray, and I did. I prayed a lot through the week, on a variety of topics: family, friends, my wife, myself. I seriously prayed a lot over the week, and that was very good. Further, my daily readings in the Bible were also very good, very nourishing, if you will. I found a real enjoyment in the reading, in the praying, and in the closeness that I felt with God.
And there were several other good things through the week.
For quite a while I was a Facebook junkie. Keeping up with friends and family was very enjoyable, as was posting my opinions on topics and the give and take with people who had different opinions or political persuasions. It was a good opportunity to reconnect with childhood friends as well. One of which was an acquaintance from high school. I can’t guarantee this, but I believe he had friended me. We weren’t really close way back when, but going to a small school we knew each other, and he was ok as far as I was concerned. I remember him as a good-natured guy, easygoing, rather quick-witted and fun to be around. However, something changed. I noticed that on FB he was frequently acerbic, and rather taunting in his posts on my page, both with me as well as with others who posted on my comments. I tried using humor to tone down his anger and pointed posts, but apparently my efforts were not appreciated. It culminated in a post I made on a very controversial topic. I posted what I thought I was simply a throwaway line on a topic that I am very passionate about. In retrospect, I should have known what a backlash this would generate, but at the time I was caught completely by surprise. What a firestorm! A friend of my daughter questioned my Christianity, and would not dialogue. Others blasted me as well, including my high school acquaintance. Here’s what he wrote:
“It must be comforting in your black and white world, clark. One victim is obviously too many…you think you know me because we went to high school a long time ago…you don’t. I don’t know anything about you since then either…this is not a jibe, a bait or even sarcastic humor….it is adios. I have better things to do in this short life than read your self-rightous bullshit…good luck….” (I’m not sure he really meant the “good luck part”)
In and of itself not that big a deal, but combined with his sarcasm and rather mean replies to my friends, it was a bit much. He then un-friended me. I attempted dialogue, but he refused.
This type of issue is very difficult for me. I do my best to get along, and much prefer reconciliation to discord. And for him to act in this manner was disconcerting to say the least. It has been very difficult to let go of this, and it has been bothering me to some degree since around mid-January.
This has all been background for me to explain how huge it was that God laid it on my heart to let go of this whole thing during our week of fasting. I noticed that early in the fast I seemed focused on this incident, and it seemed to be affecting my spiritual life. I had no peace, just a jangled sense of disturbance, and it seemed to focus on my old acquaintance. I realized (yeah, I can be a bit of a slow learner sometimes) that I needed to let the incident, as well as my acquaintance, go. I’m not certain I was able to do so one-hundred percent, but I am much, much closer than I was before the fast. And boy does that feel good!
Further, as I had stated in an earlier post on this blogsite, I experienced some fairly intense kidney pain right around day three through day four or five of the fast. I thought it would dissipate quickly, but it lingered, and prevented sleep for a couple of nights. I had intended to take no analgesics at all for the duration of the fast, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and so on. However, with the pain I experienced, not only did I need some pain relief, I loaded up. I was quite disappointed in myself for that. Also, I was at a local shop about mid-way through the fast, and they always have a small bowl of Hershey’s kisses for the customers. I always have one or two, and without thinking, I picked one up, unwrapped it, and popped it in my mouth. Enjoyed it, too. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had unthinkingly broken my fast. And that frustrated me as well.
But as the week went on, I kind of changed my thoughts on this. I think I’m kind of grateful that I did “fail” in those regards. I could easily become a bit proud of the fact that I completed the fast, and that I did so to the very smallest detail or requirement that I had set for myself. Which, of course, would have been completely contrary to the entire intent of the fast itself. So I wound up being thankful that I had not had the “perfect” fast.
Various other insights were also given to me through the week. I will describe just a couple here.
As part of his Sunday message on March 4th, Pastor Bob Klecan shared a text he had gotten from a friend, talking about the fast we had just begun. The text said, “Do you think this week of fasting is causing people to realize that they’re actually not replacing food with a fast but rather that they’re actually replacing food with a feast?” I found that to be profound, and this thought was echoed through the week with my reading in the Word. One example is from Phillipians 1: 9-11. It says, “9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
This passage calls to me. This is exactly what I want my life to look like. This is exactly what I want to be.
In the end, the week of fasting was not a spiritual rocket taking off. If anything that “liftoff” was what I gained from our week in the Dominican Republic. The week of fasting was instead, a booster attached to that rocket. The fasting did not give me liftoff, but it kept me going. I am grateful for the lessons learned, and for the spiritual applications I gained. In fact, as unbelievable as this is to me, it is likely that Beth and I will be much more regular with fasting. We have discussed making this a quarterly event, with our next one as early as sometime in June. And for someone who loves food as I do, that’s a miracle in and of itself.