Updated to add: This morning (2 days post-fast), Jason said to me, "Remind me before the fast next year of how I feel right now. Post it on your blog!" Yes, husband. He says he has so much more energy and isn't feeling sluggish in the mornings AND only wanted to have one cup of coffee today. To those who know my hyper-caffeinated husband, this in itself could be proof of God's existence. So, spiritual benefits aside, fasting seemed to be a kind of detox for him. And me? I hardly even want Diet Coke anymore. (For now. I'm just sayin'.)
A few weeks ago, Jason brought home a book that I was surprised to discover is on the New York Times' Bestseller List. It's a book called "Fasting", and covers the spiritual reasons behind a fast, different types of fasting, and the biblical support offered for it. I wouldn't have thought enough people would be interested in such a book to enable it to become a bestseller. I'm not knocking the book or the topic--we are in midst of a fast right now, but it's not usually something people get excited about, you know? Fasting involves determination, self-denial, and lotsa juice, as you'll see below.
I was talking to Becky and Matt about this the other day, and they mentioned that they'd be interested in a post about fasting--how one does it, specifically.
Well, we are certainly not experts on fasting--you can read that guy's book, and many others, for that. All we know is that fasting is one of those mysterious things that really does make a difference in life and matters of the spirit. I was thinking about this and it reminded me of how, years ago, I would ask people, "How do you know if you're in love?" And they would say, "You'll just know." That response was so irritating to me. I mean, how unhelpful is that? However, I ultimately found it to be true. So, how do I know fasting makes a spiritual difference in life? Well, I just do. Are you irritated yet?
(I'll get to the mechanics in the next paragraph. Just one more thing.) If you follow or read the teachings of Jesus, you know that He outlined three things that Christ-followers should do. He said, "When you give...When you pray...When you fast." Not if, but when. This is a somewhat painful realization. Giving generously, praying at inconvenient times, and denying yourself through fasting are meant to be regular practices of the spiritual life. And as much as I'd like to make it multiple choice, there doesn't seem to be that option!
So this week, for instance, Jason is doing a liquid fast. That means for 7 days, he is only drinking fluids. Water, Juice, Chocolate milk (yum), Decaf tea, Chicken Broth, Juice, and water. And did I mention juice? That too.
Towards the end of the week, he has a milkshake or two. There's no rule or regimen of what to drink when , but he mainly has water and juice in the mornings, and then seems to gravitate towards warm things--chicken broth and hot tea, in the afternoon and evenings. By the way, if you're fasting, chicken broth is like a gourmet feast. Just magical.
Being five months pregnant, my fast is different, of course! We don't believe God calls us to endanger our physical selves in pursuit of spiritual things. Self-Denial is not the same as endangerment. I am eating 3 squares a day, but have cut out "extras"--sweets, my beloved Diet Coke, and stuff I really don't need. I am also cutting way back on TV. If I get hungry between meals (baby needs food!)I have a piece of fruit. Actually, what I'm doing shouldn't be called "fasting". It should be called "Eating Like A Grown Up Person".(Except with Diet Coke, please.)
Some people in our church are fasting from meat and sweets, others are eating one meal a day, and others are adding "extras", like television. If you've never done that, I recommend it! The sound of silence is a nice thing from time to time. The idea is not to legislate what others' fast should be, but for each person to decide what is right for them to do, within reasonable guidelines. We always tell people to consult their doctor if they have any health concerns.
So how does it feel to go 7 days without eating? Well, the first couple days are rough. You feel sleepy, and a little irritable. And your stomach, used to being filled at certain times, protests. Caffeine headaches ensue. However after a bumpy start, a kind of clarity comes. That statement makes me think of stories I've read about mystics who, after a rigorous regimen of fasting,go to the mountaintop and have fantastical visions.
Well, it ain't really like that for us! It's more of a sense of being more "tuned-in" to God and what He is saying. Again, maybe this is just one of those "you just know" kind of things.
We just know that it makes a difference for us. Not just the actual not eating part, but the change in lifestyle that that brings with it. We find that we have more time to think, pray, and talk with each other. It is a fantastic way to start the year. And Jesus teaches it, which matters to us. Fasting...Try it!