Over the summer, I fasted for the first time. I’m one of those people who’s never really felt like I had a good reason to fast. I felt like fasting was somehow akin to speaking in tongues, and it wasn’t something I felt I ever needed to do in my relationship with God.
Then, I just really struggled.
I struggled with work. I struggled with church. I struggled with friendships. I struggled with family. I struggled with romance. I struggled with reading and writing. Just about the only thing that was going well in my life for awhile was running, so I settled in and trained, and I ran a marathon.
The day I fasted was just about a week after running the marathon.
I felt like God was far away. I felt like I was resistant to Him, even though I didn’t want to be. I felt like everyone around me was falling apart. I felt like I’d never be happy again. I had just quit my job with no prospects for the future. I’d thrown my crap into a rental car days after my last day of teaching, and I drove to San Diego to run a race. And then, after running the race, I just drove.
I planned on driving up the coast and being alone a lot. I planned on walking along the beach, praying, reading, writing, and re-adjusting my attitude.
I thought fasting might be a decent idea.
So, I took one day, and I fasted. I wasn’t sure what the rules are of fasting. I thought about Islam, and I thought fasts in that situation end at sundown or something. I thought about Jews and what they would consider fasting (I didn’t actually know). I thought about whether fasting means no calories at all, or just no solid food… and I decided that I could have a Starbucks and that was it until Midnight.
It was a good day, and I can’t say with any certainty that fasting is what knocked me back into myself. In all honesty, I think it was probably a dozen different things that all contributed to putting me back together.
Then, I was sitting at Starbucks I am sitting at Starbucks, and I just finished reading my daily chapter of Bonhoeffer, and I came to something that I think accurately describes the role fasting played in my life, “As soon as a Christian recognizes that he has failed in his service, that his readiness has become feeble, and that he has sinned against another’s life and become guilty of another’s guilt, that all his joy in God has vanished and that his capacity for prayer has quite gone, it is high time for him to launch an assault upon the flesh, and prepare for better service by fasting and prayer,” (The Cost of Discipleship ch. 16).
Fasting, for me was an assault upon the flesh.
Every time I felt hungry or thought about food, I prayed. I spent a lot of the day thanking God for how much food is available to me. I live in an abundance of food like the world has never seen throughout its history. I think about food all day, every day, and what I think is, “Should I eat ______, or should I eat ________?” I consider whether or not I want to cook for myself or eat out. I consider how many calories I’m at and whether I can stand putting myself at a calorie deficit for the day. I plan out what times I’m going to eat so that I can exercise, sleep, etc… without feeling uncomfortable. Not eating is interesting, because so many of the decisions I make in a day are about food. With those decisions off my plate (haha!), I found myself feeling really calm and at ease.
And I found myself able to put everything into perspective. All of my struggles seemed less significant in light of how completely secure I feel in God meeting my day-to-day needs. God has never left me hungry. Never. That single fact deserves so much more gratitude than I ever feel or express.