I’ve been fasting this week.
In this case, I’m fasting from food, but I’ve fasted from television, music (rather than listen to the stereo in my car on morning drives to work, I preferred thinking and listening for Him in quiet), news (including newspaper, television and radio), alcohol (I like an ale or a glass of wine now and then), and more. It’s not because God likes it when I fast, it’s because I do.
For me, fasting is choosing a weakness through which I will know and savor God more. It’s amazing how much I get used to turning to the things of this world for satisfaction, rather than to God, who satisfies me most and best. Like many, I suppose, seeking God or reading the Bible or praying can become all about obedience and willpower when I’m getting satisfaction and pleasure elsewhere. Does that make sense? When my eagerness is most evident because I’m really, really looking forward to a barbecued steak and a glass of syrah tonight, or when I’m really eager to see who does well on American Idol next Tuesday, or to figure out who won the debate between Hillary and Obama, then it's likely my wants and desires and satisfaction have been captured by the stuff of this world, and not by God.
And then my thoughts go something like this: “I really should read the Bible.” “I really ought to pray more.” Or, “I’m really weak on the spiritual disciplines of study and meditation. I’ve got to be more committed.” That’s a good one.
I start to approach God and the things He likes as important things to do, rather than ways to know Him and like Him. And let Him like me. Reading the Bible and praying becomes a certain daily duration of time when I get my study and devotional time card punched. Going to church is about following through on commitment. Tithing or giving is about the pledge I made. Yuck. Round about then a college football game is much more exciting. Or a bowl of ice cream. A shopping spree. A good movie. A deal closed.
Read the Bible? I’ll do that on Sunday.
The wedding between desire and satisfaction is no longer officiated by God, having been found and joined together elsewhere. So, He gets commitment and study—and frustration. But because He has crucified me to this world and this world to me (we’re incompatible), I can tolerate this upside down living for only so long. (Gal. 6:14)
That’s where a fast comes in. Through it I am pricking myself—my true self—and saying, “Alert! Wake up and be satisfied! I can no longer stand surface satisfaction when I’ve been made for far deeper.” To be sure, I still have strong longings for satisfaction—in fact they get stronger—but the Spirit brings out desires now natural for me. I want God. I want Dad. And any way to get Him and to know Him is where I start going. I begin talking to Him more, even as I read my Bible. I start wanting to take a walk just so I can get out and look around and express my thoughts and questions to Him. I wake up in the morning and I think, “God, I want to be satisfied by you.” That’s a pretty welcome thought compared to what can otherwise go on in my noggin.
This morning I made breakfast for my family; French toast, strawberries and bananas. And I didn’t eat any of it. My eldest daughter is staying home today because she’s sick, and she just asked me to make her a piece of toast, with lots of cream cheese and lots of apricot jam on top. Lots.
And I’m loving it. I’m being carried along by the Holy Spirit—my friend and fascination and satisfaction. The hunger I feel for a nibble is less powerful than the satisfaction I’m getting from Him. And that’s what a fast is for.