I never want to fast. But, here's how I try.

In my last post, I teased out my convictions on the motivation for fasting.

So, now, I turn my attention to the art of fasting.

How do we go about it? Or, better, how am I fumbling my way through?

I was baptized into fasting through an experience during the summer of 2013 in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There, along with a group of ten and our fearless guide, we trekked into the Rocky Mountain wilderness for several days of solitude, silence and fasting. Prior to this, I had fasted for a meal here or there and maybe a couple 24 hour water-only fasts. The goal was to quiet our minds and bodies. To be still before the Lord and wait for him. To cultivate a more intimate relationship with our Father.

I learned much about fasting from this wilderness experience - and myself and God, more importantly.

From that wilderness experience of fasting, I learned:

  • It's really helpful to taper into and out of fasting. Our guide gave us a suggested "menu" as preparation which involved a couple days of increasingly smaller portions of healthy foods and lots of water (our need for water was enhanced even more by our high altitude dwelling and the hiking exertion up to our base camp).
  • There really are - or can be - rewards in fasting, such as clarity of mind, re-energized body, increased joy, a more fertile heart to receive and hear from God, and even a recognition that my body doesn't need much of the food I shovel down mindlessly. After a few days, I actually didn't want to eat. I didn't want to lose this state of near ecstasy which I had found.
  • It's helpful to have the accountability and fellowship with others who are fasting; that is, there can be a helpful and powerful corporate component to fasting, which is probably why we see a lot of communal fasting in Scripture (though modern spiritual disciple practice seems to emphasize the individualistic approach). 
  • It's much easier to say "No" to snacks and food when you're in solitude removed from civilization! There's something to be said for removing the temptation. 
  • Lastly, I learned that breaking ourselves down and humbling ourselves in fasting exposes many more sins, idols and false narratives which plague the soul! I learned that I'm not hungry enough for God and unfortunately try and fill my soul with too much junk food.

I wish I could say that I've incorporated an annual extended fast into my life, but I haven't.

Again, the accountability and motivation associated with this unique getaway were extremely beneficial. I highly recommend having an annual rule and rhythm which incorporates this into your life. I confess, having three kids and moving twice in the past 5.5 years has occuppied my attention, but is NOT an excuse. We schedule what's important.

I have had a few seasons where I've sought more of a disciplined, regular fast - fasting from one or two meals - during periods of discernment and hardship. I've found that keeping a weekly rhythm for this is incredibly beneficial, because I don't do well with "surprise" fasts, and I really, really like my mealtime rituals three times a day. Again, it's been helpful to have the encouragement and accountability of friends whom I've invited to fast with me for some of these seasons (e.g. during Lent season).

From this latter season of fumbling - and mostly failing - in fasting, I've learned:

  • Sometimes you need to build in the habit - the duty - as a pathway to delight.
  • Fasting is always hard. 
  • Think about how you can set yourself up for "success": eating healthy, drinking water, finding time and space to be quiet and pray. You don't and probably shouldn't floor the gas pedal and go from 0 to 60 in one day. Listen to your body. Don't try and be superspiritual. Seek mentors who will encourage and aid you in your fasting journey.
  • Meditating on Scriptures, such as Psalm 42, Psalm 63, John 4, John 14-17, Matthew 4 have been helpful guides to usher me into and through fasting.
  • Always, always, always remember that fasting is a free-will offering of love to God. It's not a transaction guaranteeing manifestations of his presence or favor upon my life. 
  • I have so, so much to learn regarding fasting. I have so much to learn about yearning for the Spirit of God. I have so much to learn about repentance and humility. 
  • Fasting can be a way to usher us into God's heart for the physically and spiritually hungry, oppressed, downcast and needy. 
  • True fasting is not just about what we take away when we fast, it's about what we feast on, what we do with that absence of food. We can fast for 40 days and act hungry for God, but if our lives are filled with harshness, coldness, indifference or injustice toward our family, friends or neighbors, then we might need to ponder the true state of our hearts! Read Isaiah 58 & Matthew 23:23.


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