Church-wide Fast: Week 2
Note: Our church 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 of things that stood out from our journal entries from Week 2 of our church-wide fast. One that thing was very apparent was this week was more difficult than last for most (myself included). Another thing that surfaced this week was our focus on “embodying the Gospel” and fully engaging the world right in front of us. Let’s explore these two themes and read a couple other thoughts from our experience.
It should not be surprising to read that this week was more difficult than the last. There is a reason fasting is called a spiritual discipline. There is some excitement or even a novelty to skipping a meal here or there for the sake of Christ. When the newness wears off, all you are left with is hunger and a grumpy spirit. I fought this myself on Monday, and so did many others. It’s the same reason people struggle sticking to New Year’s resolutions. The gyms are full of people for the first few weeks of January, but the crowd tapers off by March because it takes discipline to stay committed. All that to say, this week was more difficult for most
Here are some comments about this week being tougher than last:
- I am not sure why, but yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have ever had fasting. I was never really hungry, but my stress level was off the charts, 99% of it was work related. Everything is hitting at once, as it often does.
- I found that this fast was much more difficult than the first. A couple for reasons for that. Satan was tempting me and I went into it nonchalantly, thinking it would be a piece of cake. Well it wasn’t. First of all, I didn’t pray, meditate or reflect the night before and, as a result, was not mentally or spiritually prepared. Second, when I got to work that morning, one of the guys announced, “hey, I have lunch covered. I brought Eddie Ray’s hot links, bread, and mustard”!!! I love anything that Eddie Ray makes, so that stuck with me for the rest of the day. Especially because he left it out in plain site for anyone to partake. I resisted, although I don’t know how many times I had to catch myself thinking, oh, a little taste won’t hurt. Did I mention Satan?
- The fast for some reason was a lot harder this time around than before. I just had a super bad attitude about it. I obviously was super hungry, and it seemed that in every class I went to someone was eating something in front of my face. I literally ran into food everywhere.
- This Monday’s fast was harder than last week. I became hungrier earlier in the day. I always knew I ate when I was stressed or worried. As I was reaching for a piece of peanut brittle, I stopped and said a short prayer. I realized normally I would have eaten what was in front of me, instead of stopping and praying. I know I must give my worries and concerns to God in prayer, but apparently the 10 pounds I have gain over the last few months shows that I am not doing well with this. Since Monday, I have made an effort to pray more when I feel things are out of my control (I am a control freak) and seem to be making progress.
- The last few hours were rough, especially when 6:00 pm came and there was no dinner. At about 7:30 I gave in and ate some cashews before I took Yoga with my wife. I felt like I had just committed a crime. As I reflected on those last few hours there were two things that stood out to me. 1) The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41) 2) Since our flesh is weak, I thought of how dependent I am upon God. At least the cashews tasted good.
- This week lost its atmosphere of holiness and “experiencing the sacrifice” and became about “trying to make it.” I ran into a lot of logistical questions as I attempted to reason my way into some food. Does coffee count? If I finished lunch Sunday at 2:30 pm, do I fast until 2:30 Monday or 6:00 pm Monday? Am I trying to cheat by stuffing myself full at 5:58 pm on Sunday nights? Are cough drops and chewable vitamins considered food? How many chewable vitamins and cough drops can I eat without poisoning myself?? I tried to remind myself that fasting is not about legality, but about sacrifice and focus. However, I couldn’t seem to shake my feeling of guilt about tearing into a bag of almonds at 3 pm on Monday. Poor almonds, never had a chance…
Embodying the Gospel
Monday’s theme in our prayer guide called “Seek God for the City” was on a subject we talk a lot about at Harris Creek. It was about being “salt and light” wherever God has placed. It was also about sharing the Good News of the Gospel wherever you are. This, much like fasting, is a spiritual discipline that requires training and full engagement. It is so easy to slip into a mode where you are on a mission, and that mission is to “get stuff done.” We forget that God has placed us in this context at this time for this reason: to share His love and Good News with those right in front of us. There were several people that commented on this focus from our prayer guide.
Here are some comments about focusing on embodying the Gospel:
- The little “devotional” for that day in the book was talking about proclaiming about how we should go share the gospel…and I remember so selfishly the entire day not even letting the idea of spreading the gospel come into my daily routine. How dare it interrupt my misery? But something as ineffective as me not doing what I should have done that day, and every other day for that matter, sort of magnified what I do maybe in smaller scale every day. I am too busy with selfish thoughts, my daily routine, and even things that may not seem so “me” centered, but still are. College is a place that is always driven by the “me” in the equation and I, to be honest, am struggling to take that out of the equation, or at least diminish its importance. My prayers now hopefully are filled with a less “me” driven force, and a more Him driven purpose. That may seem like a typical Christian principle, but God tends to really hit those home for me in the most “in-opportune” moments.
- The hunger pains (which of course are not that bad) reminded me of the people in Japan right now who are experiencing shortages of food. This in turn brought to mind something I once read about Japan – how a golden opportunity was missed by the church many decades ago to get in and truly share the Gospel with the people in a relevant-to-their-culture kind of way. Japan instead became a nation very secular and humanistic. Much like our current society now. God often works in a people/nation after a crisis, so my prayer is that God will do a great work there through a church planting movement, much like what is taking place in parts of China, India, the middle east and more. This is what my prayer and thoughts were focused on.
- 5:30 hit me hard when I had to coach volleyball and found myself short of breath and light-headed with little exertion. But I worked at the breathing and felt it helped. I think that fasting makes me realize how important good nutrition is to keeping my temple in shape. And I do think that our commitment to healthy physical bodies can be both an obedience to spiritual well-being as well as a testimony to others.
- Now that I have had some time to process this, I’ve come away with a couple of things. Namely, that I love the idea of being in a relationship with God, but still fail to act like this is a reality. One of the many profound and lovely aspects of God is that for all his glory, grander, and holiness, he desires intimacy. He is for us, and longs to hear from us. He does not turn his children away, but rather, He invites us to come forward. I constantly need to remind myself of this. The beauty, and depth of the Cross is something I continually learn and experience, and is far more sustaining than book on Christian living of thought.
- The most important observation I had was the realization how little I focus on God in my everyday. Sure, I pray at night. And I pray in the morning. And I pray before meals or when anything moves my heart to do so. But, as one previous blogger wrote, I didn’t realize until Monday how much of my life was on “autopilot.” It took fasting for me to realize that I go entire days without focusing the least on God unless something substantial puts Him right in front of my face. In fact, I dare say that, during the day, I focus only on God when a need arises. This was enlightening to me and allowed me to recognize places where I can grow spiritually.
There were some other observations that people made outside of these two themes that I felt like were worth sharing. Here is a random assortment of other comments about their experience:
- I think it made me realize how much I take the ease with which we obtain food for granted. In other words, if I’m hungry I just go get something to eat. There are so many people in our community and all over the world that simply don’t have that luxury. That healthy dose of perspective can be very sobering. It makes you realize just how much of a need food is, even though how much we really need and how much we consume/want are two totally different things. God will provide how much we need, but he may not provide how much we desire.
- I can totally relate to Paul in Romans 7:15. Why can’t I do what I want to do and instead do what I hate? The most precious times I have ever had in prayer have been when I take the time to go away and get on my face. Yet, I make excuses why I don’t have time to go in my closet and sit for a while or rationalize that I am free to pray in the car (with screaming children) or whatever…. If He is my first Love why don’t I run to my closet every morning? If He is the King of the universe how have I made Him so common that I don’t fall on my face more often?
- Being out of God’s will is dangerous, but when we are in God’s will we ARE dangerous…or at least we should be. Instead I think the goal of the modern American Christian life is to be safe, happy, secure, and achieve the American dream without actually ever stepping off the sidelines and onto the field, becoming the seed that is eventually choked out by the cares of the world. A life well lived…a life lived following Christ involves risk. So I must ask myself what in my life involves risk? What in my life involves or requires this deep of faith? Is there some action that God is calling me too that is so big, so scary, so unusual that the practical side of me, the “it has to make sense” side of me sits back down on the bench to let someone else take the risk. I become invisible when it really truly counts. This is what I am wrestling with, because there is part of me that knows what I am being called towards and being called for…but it is scary, it will require sacrifice for myself, my career, and my family…there is a high degree of risk…and a deep requirement of faith. Praying that God will grant me the faith needed to simply follow Him.
- Both days that we have fasted I have had a sense of clarity that I did not expect. Sometimes when I get hungry on regular days, it is hard to function, but on these days, since I have devoted them to the Lord, I have not struggled with that. I am meditating on Psalm 23 this week. God reminded me that He is the one in control, and that my trust is in Him.
- It looks like I’m going to make it the entire 24 hours without breaking my fast. Something I noticed today that surprised me was that things seemed more calm than usual. I don’t know what the explanation is, but I felt more “at peace” with my kids and my daily routine than I usually do. Obviously this was God at work, but it wasn’t something I expected to feel. Even toward the end when I started getting really hungry, I didn’t get irritable like I normally would. Instead, I prayed and/or tried to find something useful to do, and it really worked. Maybe I should do a fast every week!
I have been, once again, humbled and awed by the people I get to work and live with. I appreciated the raw struggle I read about through the second week of this fast. I was challenged by the way people desire to embody the Gospel and share the Good News with all who they come in contact with. My prayer heading into next Sunday night is that we would be people of great discipline that continue to grow through this experience together.