Fasting is hard. There are a lot of ways to fast, and it’s trendy (I think in a good way?) in a lot of circles to “give something up” for Lent. This Easter season, my husband and I (and some folks from our church) did our annual holy week fasting tradition. We had communion at our Good Friday service, then had only water all day Saturday. We met by Lake Michigan to watch the sun rise on Easter morning, read the story of the Resurrection, sang some worship songs, then shared a potluck breakfast by the lake to break our fast.
Nothing tastes better than Easter morning breakfast.
This year, in the midst of an unusually hard month, God was especially present in this fasting tradition for me. Three things stand out:
1. On Wealth
When fasting, my emotions can get a bit out of control. I get irrationally angry at small things. And really, this is not unlike how I would feel other times when I was hungry and forced to wait. I am not proud of a fair share of my internal dialogue, but my thoughts surrounding food can be especially silly. I use food for entertainment, for comfort, and feel absolutely justified in “needing” food at the moment I want it. This is ridiculous. Quite honestly, I rarely experience hunger.
Here, in my attitude toward food, is one of the clearest pictures of my wealth. I am “rich” in so many ways, and I can’t help but wonder how this immediate gratification of every physical need impacts my relationship with God. What was it about the rich young ruler in Luke 18 that prevented him from entering the kingdom? He was unwilling to give up the trappings of his wealth. It was too hard. Stepping into this place of intentional lack points to my obsession with my own comfort. And oh the grace in the invitation to be what he has called me to be, to embrace the cross, to recognize my citizenship in another kingdom.
2. On Joy
Fasting has never been easy for me, but it is shockingly easier at this point in my life than it used to be. And I know exactly why – I am the mother of two toddlers. I rarely can eat when I want to. I am almost always caring for someone else’s hunger before my own. My sleep, my leisure, my personal space is subject to two tiny, demanding, beautiful creatures. The internal changes that motherhood has wrought in me were made more apparent in this Easter fast. My “shove-down-the-selfishness” muscles get a regular workout, and fasting is another way to flex that muscle. I am becoming someone who doesn’t throw internal mini fits when I am hungry and don’t immediately get to eat.
I think I used to name those internal mini fits as lack of patience, but I think it is more clearly a lack of joy. Theopedia.com defines joy as “an orientation of the heart.” In my day to day life, I can identify a difference in my reactions when I am centered on Jesus, when my emotions are not so haphazardly dictated by the circumstances around me. To rejoice in the Lord always. To be content in all circumstances. Fasting this Easter was, in some ways, the most joyful moments of the month. When fasting, you can’t just forget about it…in what other ways can I keep Jesus before my eyes that consistently?
3. On the Bread of Life
At lunch on Saturday while mid-fast, my husband and I read a liturgy together while our daughters ate. It’s easiest to fast when you avoid food altogether, but this was not an option, and preparing food for the girls was especially challenging. Yet, sitting at the table with them, I concretely experienced for the first time being satisfied by prayer and time with God. I wasn’t hungry anymore as we did our lunch of reflection. His Word, prayer, His presence, was enough in that moment to satisfy my hunger.
I don’t functionally live like I believe that EVERY need is met in Jesus. I have loved Psalm 37:4, for all the wrong reasons: “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of heart.” So, I follow Jesus, and he gives me what I want, right? Or is it…follow Jesus, and the desires of your heart are fulfilled? I spend a lot of time focused on things that don’t matter. I still look for satisfaction and comfort from food, but that is simply a reflection of my heart’s desires: my search for a lesser bread.
For me, as I’m processing through this, I feel like God is ever calling me into a more deliberate wrestling of my heart into joy. To cultivate a heart that is centered on his way.
What is God forming in you?