Monday, April 2, 2012

sharing as i learn more re: fasting

My church is amidst church-wide fasting prayer for several days.  The pastor made a point when challenging us to this fast to leave interpretation wide open:  some are doing a "full" fast, as in water only, some are maybe doing a juice fast, or fasting from sweets, or fasting from Facebook or television...whatever.  We have services daily at noon and 7 PM for the duration.  

The fast I have chosen is strategic (and let's just stop here and insert:  in general, scripture directs us not to go around bragging about our fasts - it is best to do them in secret, so all motivations are just between oneself and the Lord - but I've come to a teachable moment and I can't just walk by it, so I'm trusting the Lord is okay with it).  Today I am able to attend both services, so my fast started after breakfast and will end after the service today.  Tomorrow I am only able to attend the noon one (and I'm going to a birthday party that night), so my fast will be from after breakfast until supper.  I'm still working out how Wednesday will go, as I get the details of what's up that day.  

Maybe you're wondering what the point is of fasting with prayer (I wondered for a long time before I learned).  There are 2 short answers:
  1. It's hard to understand fasting prayer AT ALL until you just step out in faith and try it, so don't think you're learning *everything* about it by just reading my blog.
  2. One of the important elements of fasting, for me and many others, is that somehow it brings one into a more spiritually sensitive place.  
Hence my strategy.  I want to lean into "the secret place" in prayer in a way that I can't do without fasting, but at the same time I need the mental sharpness and physical stamina that I get from eating.  So I'm focusing my "hungries" into the prayer zones of the next few days...more or less to get the most bang for my buck, without compromising my ability to do my job along the way. 

Here's the thing about that "spiritually sensitive place" business:  it's NOT a foregone conclusion.  I mean, there are 2 possible places to focus during a fast:
  1. I'm hungry!  My stomach is growling...hurts...won't leave me alone.  I feel shaky or woozy.  My head hurts. My body is screaming for food!
  2. I'm listening, Lord.  
Focusing on the first possibility brings me quickly to a crabby mood and a whole lot of self-pity, not to mention behaviors that I need to repent of.  

Focusing on the second possibility turns up my "spiritual hearing."  

I've done some fasting over the years; very often I spend some portion (sometimes ALL) of the fast in crabby hungry mode.  This time, I am discovering another growth point in my 16 months of letting God teach me to love my body:  the way I talk to myself during a fast.  It's a much nicer conversation this time around.  I am not hushing the "hungry" voice sternly.  Not angry with my body for talking to me about the lack of food.  Mondays, as I have mentioned here before, are a very hungry day for me - I think it's because I mess so much with all my routines over the weekend.  So I started out hungry within minutes after breakfast this morning, and stayed that way all day. 

Because I've been learning to be as gentle with myself as I would be to any other, there is no irritation in me.  I think of my very fussy body like a child that doesn't feel well but still has to move through the day.  I wouldn't dream of being angry with such a child - I'd feel and express compassion, and I'd quietly let the worst of the fussing pass by without comment or judgment.  Hey!  Turns out I can take that approach with my body.  Yes, it's hungry.  But I just think lovingly, "'s going to be okay..." and then turn my attention to listening for the Lord.  

In that mode today, I found that I was indeed spiritually much more sensitive - the place I most noticed it was interacting with others.  On the way home, I pondered that.  Being a little hungry can open me to increased spiritual sensitivity and compassion, if  I stay tuned into "the God frequency."  I found myself processing others' pain in much more WWJD ways than usual. 

Well, that really convicts me of the times I walk around happily stuffed, full of food and full of myself and  safely blunted from feeling others' pain.  It drives home a point I've been learning over and over along this journey:  my entire adult life pattern of extreme overeating/poor nutritional choices was in Very Large Part driven by an urge to dull that sensitivity.  To turn off the pain of the world, to shut down the pain inside me, to avoid thinking through and working through and - hey, here's a crazy idea - PRAYING through my feelings and issues.  Why go to all that trouble when I can stuff it under with a dozen hot homemade chocolate chip cookies, or 8 slices of peanut butter toast (lots of jam), or 3 donuts with a quart of chocolate milk, or an entire bag of Sterzings potato chips?

As I have learned and practiced appropriate eating this past year, there has been immensely less emotional/spiritual numbness, and the Lord has been able to use that enlivened state in me to peel away layer after layer after layer of pain.  The healing work He has been doing in me is really a miracle in its magnitude.  It has been a good thing, stepping away from constantly shoving myself too full of food (and all the wrong foods, at that).  

Today as I fast, I'm noticing an important next step, and beginning to truly understand why more regular fasting SHOULD be a part of my life:  it's not only about my healing.  It's about those around me, whose cries of pain I can't even hear very well as long as I'm always contentedly full.  I am an intercessor!  (If that word doesn't make sense to you, insert:  prayer warrior.)  So fasting is an important part of honing that craft, methinks.

Here's to pressing in. 


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