|Food=Smile, but Fasting=Grace!|
I’m sitting here with an almost irresistible desire to open the fridge. To pull out all those yummy items that I know are in there (or at least what my imagination tells me is in there), plop back down on the couch, and eat to my heart’s content.
But I refrain.
Because it’s Fasting Day. (Pout. Sigh. Tummy growl.)
A few months ago, my friend J. and I were discussing the missing ‘something’ in our spiritual lives…fasting. Sure, I fast with the best of them on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, counting out my small meals and going to bed early so I don’t notice the lack of my favorite bedtime snack. But voluntary fasting? Shudder. For someone who loves cooking and baking and—let’s be honest here—eating…fasting was something I was quite happy to shake hands with twice a year and leave it at that.
But whenever I heard that Bible verse, Mark 9:29, about how some demons "can only come out through prayer AND through fasting” (emphasis mine), I’d get a little squirmy. And then I started dating this man who is part of a nationwide group of men that fast monthly—yes, monthly—for their future or current brides (including priests for their bride the Church. How cool is that?). I was discovering that fasting was possible for the average person, for the saint-in-the-making. Darn. I was kind of hoping it was only meant for those really saintly people way ahead of me on the spiritual path, you know?
So J. and I started our own little fasting group of women, "The Mark 9:29 Sisters." I sent out an email to scores of ladies and was inspired and amazed by the numerous positive responses I received: Women were hungry for the discipline of fasting. (Can we just pause and appreciate that fully-intended pun for a moment? Okay, moving on…) The graces are palpable each month as women of various ages and situations come together in this powerful form of prayer and sacrifice, fasting in whatever way they feel led. For some, it’s simply giving up sweets or some other small enjoyment. For others, it consists of (and I quote J. fondly) “bread and water, baby!” Yet no matter what choice of sacrifice, the Holy Spirit is pouring out graces upon us and teaching me much.
Fasting itself teaches me more about the way I (ouch) idolize food. About the amount of time I spend each day planning, preparing, and consuming meals (compared to the time I spend in prayer or service!). It teaches me about the way I shrink from tiny sufferings such as a growling tummy. Being hungry for one day reminds me of the many who are hungry every day.
|"Whoever comes to Me will never hunger..."|
Fasting in community shows me the beauty of united prayer and sacrifice. Prayer requests are often exchanged in the days before the Fasting Day and I’m humbled as I read the needs and heart-cries of my sisters in Christ. I’m motivated by their solidarity and I’m encouraged by their strength.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). I still have my moments of weakness--like when I ate a chocolate chip muffin because, well, that counts as bread for fasting, right? Yet as Clare reminded us in her post, it is in our weakness that we find our strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10). We recognize our need for God to supply the strength as we seek to discipline the flesh, to empty ourselves of that which clutters our path to Him. The only One who truly satisfies our hunger (John 6).
What are your experiences with fasting? Are you interested in incorporating this more into your life? Please feel free to visit our fasting group at our Facebook page. We’d love to have you join us!