Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I've been thinking lately about fasting. I won't claim that the idea was sparked by religious devotion - it was sparked by an article I read that claimed that fasting can offer relief from RA symptoms. So I've been doing some research, and inevitably the idea of fasting as a devotional practice surfaced.
Our God is magnificent, and sneaky. Not once had the idea of a fast ever taken root in my stubborn head, until He revealed its possible usefulness as a pain reliever. And then, not once but twice the idea was mentioned on a radio program I listen to in the morning. What had always been relegated in my mind into the "wayyyy too Pentecostal for me" category was now working its way into the forefront of my thinking. Fasting might be a viable devotional tool. So, what changed my mind?
It was a caller on the radio show. The discussion began when one of the deejays mentioned that her pastor had called for a "media" fast, where his parishioners should abstain from media for a week. Completely. The caller was offering her opinion on fasting of any kind. The crux of her discussion was that our earthly bodies get weighed down by earthly things. All the time. The routines of our life are often elemental for our survival (such as eating...), but more often than not those routines and day-to-day actions are merely a shovel that we use to dig ourselves right into a big ol' rut. I don't believe that any of us would say that while in our various ruts we are completely removed from God, but I think we can all agree that there comes a point that while we are walking the same path over and over again (maybe even the path back and forth from the refrigerator) our focus strays from God.
Therefore, the purpose of a fast is to drag us kicking and screaming away from those everyday paths. I think any fast can work; a media fast, a traditional can't-eat-anything fast, or any variation of either. When we find ourselves mindlessly walking towards the kitchen, we can pull ourselves up short and remind ourselves to be mindful of all of our actions. By forcing ourselves to become conscientious of our day-to-day routines, we can start to channel the energy we put into those routines into walking with God.
A note: In Matthew, Chapter 6, Christ tells us to be sure that we fast in secret. Men who "disfigure their faces" so that others know that they are fasting have "received their reward". Meaning, if you fast and go blabbin' it to others purely so that those around you will recognize how devout and pious you are, than you will receive your reward. That reward, of course, being that others will look at you and maybe think you are a fine and proper person. However, if you fast and don't feel the need to tell others what you are doing, than it will be obvious to your Father that your motivation is truly to seek him and reduce the "clutter" of everyday life. Once your motivation for fasting becomes appearing to be a devout person to those around you, than its effectiveness as a devotional practice drops.
For myself, I will continue to prayerfully consider the possibility of a fast in my journey of faith. I s'pose, in the end, it can be one of the myriad of tools that our Father describes for us in order to facilitate our growing closer to Him. And for that, it deserves some consideration.