May 20, 2014
Matthew 6:16-18 (in context)
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
CONSIDER THIS. . .
I don’t fast. I just don’t. Why?
Because, and it hurts to say it, I have permitted my spirit to grow lazy. Oh, I have a good reason. I’ll set out on a 24 hour fast and about six or eight hours in I get a splitting headache. Enlarging prayer, which is supposed to be one of the purposes of fasting, goes right out the window. And I’m left asking the question, “So why was I doing this?” And that usually leads straight to the nearest can of Pringles I can inhale.” The next time fasting comes to mind, the traumatic memory comes to mind and I head to Sonic for the obligatory Route 44 Diet Coke with a side of happy hour mozzarella sticks.
It reminds me of the last time I tried to kick off a new fitness campaign with a 5K. For the first hundred yards I was all Usain Bolt. About half a mile in I’m clutching my side. At the mile mark I’m officially shuffling and then I took a side street back to the house, inquiring of myself as to the purpose of all that. The next day, when the thought of taking a run comes to mind, the PTSD kicks in and I’m back on the couch.
So what if the next time the fitness bug hits me, I walk a mile every day for a week and walk two the week after, and three the week following, and what if in week four I jogged that second mile? I might actually get in shape for the first time in my mid-life.
Let’s apply this approach to fasting. What if I identified one lunch hour a week for the next three weeks to do 6:6 time instead of feeding my face? And what if on the fourth week I passed up breakfast in addition to lunch (ok- you can do morning coffee)? And as a reward, set your alarm for a 3pm Sonic run. You get the point.
Spiritual laziness, like physical laziness, is not typically overcome by a P90-X approach. Sure, people do it, but in six months they are usually back where they started.
Sustained discipline, especially as relates to the human spirit, requires a gentle approach. Take the long view. With spiritual conditioning, we aren’t training for a marathon. The training is the marathon.
John Wesley devotes an entire sermon to fasting in his thirteen part series. It is a brilliant biblical treatment as well as a practical gift to those who struggle with the practice.
He says below with a great economy of speech what I have tried to make clear with my many words above.
It is possible either to fast or pray in such a manner as to make you much worse than before; more unhappy, and more unholy. Yet the fault does not lie in the means itself, but in the manner of using it. Use it still, but use it in a different manner.” p.150
One of the things I appreciate about Wesley’s approach to the life hid with God in Christ is his willingness to shake off the shackles of religiosity and experiment with grace. It’s refreshing.
I’m going to “baby-step” my way into fasting. Want to join me?
Let me know how it goes.
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J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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