Church-wide Fast: Week 1

Harris Creek is using the season of Lent to do a church-wide fast and prayer. Many of us are fasting from food for 24 hours (Sundays at 6:00 pm to Mondays at 6:00 pm) in order to bring us closer to Christ. While we are doing this fast, we are also journaling about our experience. I am using the church’s blog to post many of their thoughts anonymously to share our experience. The thoughts expressed by members of Harris Creek are in blue below. There are two themes that ran consistently throughout this first week of our fast. Fasting exposes our hunger and fasting restores our rhythm with God by breaking our typical routines.

Before I post some of the comments from others, let me say a quick word about the “faith vs. works” debate that eventually arises anytime you focus in on spiritual disciplines. We do not partake in spiritual disciplines to gain favor in God’s eyes. Our favor in God’s sight is found in the work Jesus did on our behalf and nothing else. That is why the Gospel is Good News. You and I have God’s favor in our lives because of Christ’s love for us, not because of any good work we have done. Ok, let’s get back to the collective experience we had as a group fasting together.

Hunger

One thing is clear from our first 24 hours of fasting is that fasting exposes our hunger. This might be the most obvious statement ever, but I mean more than hunger in the physical sense. Fasting is something that exposes our fallen nature and brings our hunger to the surface. It also a discipline that reminds us of how fleeting our life is. We need food, water and air to sustain our lives. In the midst of recognizing this need through fasting, we are reminded of Jesus’ words when he said during His 40 day fast, “Man does not live on bread alone.” (Luke 4:4) We are much more than physical beings, and fasting reminds us of this fact.

Here are some comments about physical hunger by some on our fast:

  • It’s 6:07 pm on Sunday… I’m already hungry.
  • I kept asking myself throughout the day if I was truly going to learn anything or grow closer to God in this fast.  The only emotions I was feeling were hunger and crankyness.  However, as 6 pm grew nearer, I began to realize how much I take for granted.  There are people in other countries who go for days without eating, not because they are pious or are trying to be sacrificial, but because they have no choice.  I have always known that fact, but there is something different about feeling that fact personally.
  • First time fasting for me. I was a little worried since I had to travel on the road four hours and do manual labor in a rock quarry for eight. I took a gallon of water with me and a bottle of orange juice. I prayed that God would sustain me through the day. As I got hungry, especially at 9 am when a guy in the truck stopped and got a really nice looking sausage on a bun, I prayed the Jesus prayer and I spent time in prayer for different people and issues in my life. All went well.
  • I have never paid attention to an IHOP advertisement but for some reason I was really interested Sunday night at 10:30 pm.

Many of our people recognized the hunger in their lives, and turned into a spiritual experience:

  • Fasting for 24 hours was difficult for me. My relationship with food is strong, for there is always an emotional connection when I eat meals, foods, or drink beverages that bring up past, positive memories. Also, food is fun. Cooking, baking, making various concoctions is a hobby of mine and this is hard to do when one is not to consume as she plays. Prayer is powerful. During this time, I turned to the scripture (primarily Psalms) when I was struggling. Usually, I read to myself, but I found myself reading aloud every time I opened the Holy book.
  • When I felt hunger I did try to go to scripture. Prayer was difficult, but the reading of scripture sustained me. It is usually the other way around for me, where Prayer is easy and concentrating on scripture is more difficult.
    I found that I was able to spend much more time in prayer on Monday because every time I thought about how hungry I was, I was reminded to pray for various things by the Lord. It’s fascinating to me that “comfort” is what keeps us from noticing the Lord in our lives sometimes.
  • When the hunger pangs hit, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” immediately came to the forefront of my thoughts. It served as a continual reminder during the day that ultimately the Lord is my sustainer, not physical sustenance. Life is fleeting; I’m to put my hope not in worldly desires but in Jesus, who is the bread of life.

Rhythm

Another theme that played out from our fast was that fasting restores our rhythm with God by breaking our typical routines. It is amazing to think about how much of life is spent on autopilot. I read once that a great way to prevent dementia is to break your normal routines on a consistent basis. If you brush your teeth with your right hand, then brush with your left hand. If you have a normal way you wash in the shower, try a different routine. The reason is our body is built to conserve energy, to cling to and reserve every bit of life we have. If we can perform a certain function without thinking about it, this helps to store energy and “preserve” life. This is why there are times when you take your normal route home and cannot remember the drive…you were on autopilot. It’s kind of scary to think about how much of life we spend zoned out.

Here is a comment about how fasting confronts living life on autopilot:

  • I was a little disappointed with myself on Sunday night when I found myself eating a cookie [not because I was hungry, but because it was there] a mere three hours into my fast. What was more disconcerting, though, was that I had not made a conscious decision to eat that measly little cookie. Rather, I ate the cookie [the scourge of all mankind] without giving it a second thought. It wasn’t until much later on in the fast, Monday afternoon, that I realized why it bothered me so much. It wasn’t that I had broken my great, spiritual fast, but that I hadn’t really been fasting at all. Yes, I was preforming the work itself, but had lost the point of the fast to begin with. I ate the cookie because I was not focusing on God, His work, and my own need for His saving grace.

There were a lot of comments describing how fasting helped put people back in rhythm with God by taking them off autopilot:

  • When the fast started Sunday night I was hesitate to go about my normal day, especially running. I had the impulse to overeat Sunday, and to not run. But as I laced up and headed out the door I couldn’t help but think that Jesus never took the easy way. So I went about my same routines just substituting food for prayer and meditation but continued to run and work out. The experience was good, but left me longing for more. I am planning another fast this week.
  • This is the first time I have fasted and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be without food.  I focused on God the entire day, even while at work. So many times during the I put God to the side unless I need him. Monday He was my first thought and considering it was a hard day I got through the hard parts feeling whole. Two of my children lost friends in senseless deaths this week.  (My daughter) faced going to school on Monday for the first time with her friend not being there and she really struggled when she got home. Even though she was struggling I felt better prepared to help her because I had been with God during the day. (My son) lost a close friend from high school on Sunday. (He) still has not reached out to us yet, but I know God is with him.
  • Fasting always puts things in perspective for me. It is such a great reminder to me of the sacrifice Jesus made for me. His sacrifice is always the catalyst that encourages me to continue my ever so small sacrifice of simply giving up food for 24 hours. 1 John 1:5-10 resonated with me during those 24 hours. Confession of sin is something I need to embrace and let God’s promise of purification be my reality. I have a long way to go.
  • I had a vivid dream Sunday night that included: reconciliation of an old relationship, winning a job that we desperately need at work and details of how I would break my fast (which incidentally played out much differently).
  • At the end of the fast I tore into a granola bar (and then another and another), the same kind I eat every day, and realized something was different.  It tasted so much better than it did the day before!  I eat this brand so often that the taste had become routine and unexciting to me.  The bar was “just something to keep me full for a while” and not a thrilling culinary experience.  Eating it after the fast I could not help but think that I take food for granted most of the time.  If food isn’t new or exciting, I eat it only because I know I am supposed to in order to live.  I don’t enjoy it as the blessing it truly is.  Do I treat God this way too?  I live in a relationship with Him day in and day out, and sometimes I let things become stale.  I talk to Him simply because I know I am supposed to, and don’t always make an attempt to praise Him as the very thing which sustains me.  I am happy to be past the honeymoon stage of new Christianity and settled into an everlasting and stable relationship with God, but there should still be joy in the way I experience Him.  Otherwise, I am taking Him for granted just as I do food.  I had to be apart from food for a day to really value it.  I am thankful that I don’t have to do the same to rediscover my value for God.  Maybe fasting does teach you something after all…

Breaking your normal routine by fasting also helps you focus on others, as evidence by these comments:

  • Human beings are selfish; at least I am. There are thousands in Japan and other third world countries this instant doing what I did only one day for many, many days. How fortunate are we to have as much as we do or perhaps, how unfortunate. If the supply was not there, I would find myself reaching for God more and not physical things of this world that deceptively “fulfill” my needs.
  • As cliché as this sounds, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the discomfort I was feeling during the fast is an everyday experience for many people around the world.  While I often ignorantly believe the lie that I am entitled to three meals a day (and snacks to sustain me in between), there are so many people around the world, including right here in the U.S., that would consider even just one meal a day to be a privilege.  I hope that as I get the opportunity to grow in the discipline of fasting this Lent, that God would create in my heart a habit of genuine gratitude and appreciation at every meal.

This has been an experience that is already yielding fruit in the personal lives of people at Harris Creek. I cannot wait to see the fruit that is produced in our collective Body as a whole. In short, fasting goes a long way to expose our daily need for Christ. With the recent blows life has dealt me, I’m grateful to be fasting with a community because it has helped remind me of my utter dependence upon Christ more than ever.

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