Rambling Thoughts on Fasting
Why is it that when I try to fast, everything I’m not supposed to have seems to be right in my face? Is it the devil, trying to tempt me? Or is it just that my flesh hasn’t been crucified to the point where it doesn't always want its own way? Probably some of both, I guess.
Our church is doing a “Daniel Fast,” for the month of April, up until Easter Sunday--at which point the fast is to be broken by the partaking of an early morning “Sonrise” breakfast that could produce some gastrointestinal disturbances for those "fasters" used to eating only unprocessed foods up to that point (that is, if the menu is the same as it ever was).
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with a Daniel Fast, the deal is that you eat fruits and veggies and drink water (or 100% fruit juice). We got a pamphlet with a list of what you can and cannot eat. No, our church is not a cult, this is just an example of a corporate fast, such as the kinds called in 2 Chronicles 20 or Ezra 8.
However, if we are to truly fast like Daniel, then we are only to eat vegetables (no fruit), and drink water. In fact, he goes so far as to say that he ate no “tasty” food. That to me would mean eating veggies that I don’t particularly like. I like most veggies, so that would mean eating beets for a month. And maybe unadulterated spaghetti squash. (*shudder*)
Anyway, I was prepping my kids for the few weeks before the fast began, telling them how we weren’t abstaining from food altogether, as Jesus did in the wilderness; we were just modifying what we eat. Like no sugar. And no caffeine. And this was going to help us to focus more on God. I think I was trying to convince myself in the midst of these speeches.
They didn’t understand. We don’t eat a lot of sugar, per se. But there is a lot of sugar added to processed foods, including things that don’t necessarily taste sweet, like ketchup and salad dressings. So, processed foods were off the list.
Anyway, I say all this to say that I had a major fast fail. I got food from McDonald’s the other night. Or rather I sent out my tired husband when he came home from work, which makes me a bad wife, too. And a bad mom, since you aren’t supposed to feed your kids McDonald’s food, especially after you’ve spent time telling them about the spiritual benefits of a Daniel Fast.
I was sick that day, and the house was a wreck because I didn’t have any processed food to feed my kids (like granola bars and string cheese) for snacks, so they were leaving rice cake trails all over the house while I was comatose on the couch. And they were doing paper crafts and playing board games, so the house was really a wreck. I didn’t feel like cooking, but everyone was hungry. So we ate McDonald’s food. To further compound things, I sent Glen out the next morning for breakfast. I wanted pancakes and we had only one egg because I didn’t buy more, since eggs weren’t on the “list.” There. I confess. (Be careful how you judge me.)
Fasting has always been a source of guilt for me, unless I’m doing it on my own, with a particular, prayerful focus. I know that I fail when I look beyond the moment. When fasting, one must take the Matthew 6:34 admonition not to worry about tomorrow to the nth degree--Do not worry about the next minute, because then one will find oneself wondering what one will eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or one will start fantasizing about that cup of coffee or tea that has been part of one’s routine forever but is now off limits--This is a recipe for fasting disaster.
I’ve successfully fasted before, but I’ll admit that I haven’t had three young children constantly telling me they were hungry when I did it. Yes, it’s true—I have not fasted for over eleven years, (except during flus when I didn’t care about food anyway). I didn’t have a good plan for providing food for my children, so naturally their focus was on all that they couldn’t have. Their constant complaints about there being “nothing to eat around here” were wearing on me, making my resistance wane. I started asking myself, What are my motives for doing this fast, and are they pleasing to God? After all, if He doesn’t approve of my motives, that nips the whole thing in the bud. I can fast until I’m anorexic and not have one bit of spiritual enlightenment.
So, I’ve decided to prayerfully seek God’s guidance for how to continue, or if I’m even supposed to do so. I’m asking Him to search my heart, and to show me what He wants me to do, and how He wants me to do it, and what He wants my focus to be. Because it isn't about what everyone else is doing, or what they think about my journey. It's about God and my relationship with Christ. Period.
How about you? Do you normally succeed when you fast? If you fail, do you feel guilty, or do you just shrug it off and move on?