Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Fast Or Not To Fast

And so the Lord says, 
      “These people say they are Mine. 
   They honor Me with their lips, 
      but their hearts are far from Me. 
   And their worship of Me 
    is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. ~ Isaiah 29:13, NLT

Yesterday, I posted about the upcoming Lenten season and what I understood -- or more like misunderstood -- it to be.  I had such a warped vision of what God expected of me during this season.  Or perhaps it's better said, what God desired from me.

With regards to fasting,  I’ve come to realize over the years that this is not something to ever be entered into lightly or done mindlessly or out of guilt, fear, ritual or pressure. Lenten fasting -- or any other type of Christian fasting -- should never be viewed by me or by anyone else as just some church denomination’s ancient ritual, nor should we, as I once heard in a sermon, make ourselves into miserable people observing a miserable tradition.  

Instead, we should see Lent as a reordering and a ‘spring cleaning,’ if you will, of our lives. It’s a challenge and an acknowledgment that we are not yet what we are to be; a preparation for our ultimate transformation as followers of Christ, as well as a very personal offering and intimate act of love and worship between ourselves and the Lord.  

God wants my heart!!
I'm learning it's less about tradition and a sense of duty and more about my motive; more about my having a sincere, heart's desire to become more open to God's presence and my ears more attuned to His voice; more about drawing nearer to and becoming more intimate with God as a result of my putting aside those things that I often crave more than Him.  

And just what ARE those things that I crave and desire more than God?

A few years ago, while in one of my ugly self-righteous, Pharisee modes, I found myself looking at giving up things for Lent like chocolate, coffee, junk food, etc., as lame.  Kind of dumb and childish. Like, 'Gee, does God REALLY care whether or not I eat this 3 Musketeers bar? Why deny myself such a little thing?  And hey, isn't self-denial a form of punishment anyway?'  

But I recently came across a quote, again from the Lynne Baab book, 'Fasting,' from a 30 something teacher named Lisa whom Baab interviewed.  She said this:

"Denying myself something that I use for comfort is a great reminder of my desire to keep my relationship with God as my first and foremost priority.  Fasting challenges me to keep a perspective of Who I'm living for at all times of the day."  

Wow.  Speaking strictly for myself, I too often do use chocolate, coffee, junk food for comfort.  When I should be seeking comfort from God.  I'll admit I'm guilty of using Facebook to seek validation and relevance for myself from other people.  When I should be seeking those things  from God.  Because my relationship with Him is to be my foremost priority in life. Because He is my First Love.

So, when I choose to fast or abstain or however you want to refer to it, from something -- be it a particular food or drink or sweets; an activity, routine or a habitual indulgence - I do so NOT to prove to myself and everyone around me that I am strong enough to deny myself and make this 'great' sacrifice; I do so NOT to punish myself for some 'bad behavior' and  certainly not with the mindset that I can force God to give me or do something I want. 

No, when I fast, it should be out of a desire to greatly lower the volume on the constant noise around me and to remove the continuous distractions in my life, enabling me to spend more time talking with AND listening to God throughout my day (and really, that's what prayer is), allowing for that greater, more intimate relationship with Him.  And when I do fast from something, especially if it is from a meal, be it once or twice a week or even one particular meal a day, I need to utilize the time I'd spend eating or doing that activity by spending that time alone with God.  Because if I don't, it's just meaningless.  

So, some of the deeper, pertinent questions I’ve been asking myself lately have been:

* What have I firmly placed in top priority status, thereby knocking Jesus out of first place in my life?
*What things (foods, drinks, material possessions, body image,) do I obsess over? What activities (working out, blogging, shopping), what distractions (Facebook, Internet surfing, TV shows) and what desires (need for praise, approval, acknowledgment, love) have I allowed to totally consume me and to stand in the way of my daily communication with Jesus?   

*What idols need to be cast down completely or at least brought way down to the bottom of the totem pole status?

*What sins have I allowed to continually trip me up and entangle me and ruin my relationship with the Lord, breaking His heart and grieving His Spirit? What do I need to repent of?

*How best can I honor Christ with my life during these next 40 days?  What do I need to be doing or refrain from doing? 

Right now, I'm still praying about all of this.  

The Word of God tells me there is so much more to this challenge of Lent in Isaiah 1:11-15; in Isaiah 58:6-14 (and OH what a magnificent portion of Scripture this is!); in Psalm 51:10-12 & 16-17; in Joel 2:13; and finally, in Hebrews 13:15-16. As He always has, God longs for us to be in a loving relationship with Him, to love and be loved by Him.  

While the season of Lent is considered to be a somber, more serious time of preparation than Advent, it can also be a blessed, joyful time of intentionally seeking out Jesus, embarking on a journey to befriend or strengthen our relationship with the living Christ.  May it be so for you, should you choose to partake.

'Fasting has every bit as much to do with the attitude of the heart as it does to what is actually given up in the fast.' ~ from 'Fasting,' by Lynne M. Baab


  1. All things I have been considering myself. I am thinking of a verse that reminds me whatever we do we do everything to and for the glory of God. Whether we eat or not eat, whatever we do in the light and knowledge of His presence is all for His glory. However for me it would be so much easier if I was just raised Amish.
    Sorry! I am smiling because it is true.

  2. :) Dawn, I appreciate your humor! And Pam, I so appreciate this post. I want to share it with a friend of mine who, when she learned of my current fast, asked me why I wanted to cause myself pain! You do an awesome job of explaining exactly why I entered into mine this month. I know I started in February, but I'm gaining so much from it, I have seriously begun considering continuing through the Lenten season, although it may not be in the exact same way. There are a few more things on my list of distractions/obsessions/idols that may just need to be refrained from. Thanks for this post!!

  3. Dawn,

    In March, I'll be traveling to a women's retreat in Lancaster, PA - I'll put in a good word for you among the Amish. You never know. :) I'm smiling, too, my friend, because since childhood, I dreamed of living among the Amish. Really. However, knowing my crazy self, I'd wind up being shunned within weeks of joining the community.

  4. Toni,

    Thank you and you're welcome. Share away, my friend. And I am gaining SO much from reading what YOU are learning on your journey. :)

  5. Great post Dawn. I too have a renewed purpose for Lent this season. I'm giving up sugar. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I figure it's a way for me to give something to God after all He's given to me. Some may find it silly, but for me it's pretty serious. And I guess that's all that counts, right? :) Great post. Blessings, Nicki


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