Tuesday, January 17, 2006
There are typically two types of fasts. Individual and communal. In the old testament public fasts were proclaimed as a sign of national mourning. They were always accompanied by prayer and people often wore sackcloths and put ashes on their head. These were used as a sign of penance for sins.
Private fasts are held for similar reasons. Penance and sin seem to be the foremost reasons for fasting. Me, I have my own reasons.
Christ told us to, "Deny yourself and follow me." Fasting is a way to deny your physical body in hopes for spiritual gain. Unfortunately, the protestant world in which we live in does not put a whole bunch of stock in fasting. This is somewhat surprising because Calvin, Wesley, and Luther were supportive in this spiritual practice.
Marjorie Thomspson has this to say:
In a more tangible, visceral way than any other spiritual discipline, fasting reveals our excessive attachments and the assumptions that lie behind them. Food is necessary to life, but we have made it more necessary than God. How often have we neglected to remember God's presence when we would never consider neglecting to eat! Fasting brings us face to face with how we put the material world ahead of its spiritual source...Perhaps we can see, then, that the discipline of fasting has to do with the critical dynamic of accepting those limits which are life-restoring. Our culture would seduce us into believing that we can have it all, do it all, and (even more preposterous!) that we deserve it all. Yet in refusing to accept limits on our consumption or activity, we perpetuate a death-dealing dynamic in the world. That is why the discipline of fasting is so profoundly important today.
In a society filled with billboards, commercials, pop up windows, and many other forms of advertisements, we are told to spend, spend, spend and consume, consume, consume. Fasting is a way to once again deny ourselves and focus on the one who really satisfies. After all he is the "bread of life."
I don't know what exactly I will learn from this experience. This is honestly my first time ever fasting. I have chosen to only do a partial fast. Juice during the day and one meal when the sun goes down. I thought this would be a piece of cake (no pun intended), but it really hasn't. I chose to fast for clarity and discernment. Perhaps Christ is showing me more than I ever expected or intended. I certainly am curious to see what more he has to show me.
May your fast be a blessing. I'll keep you in my prayers during your fast.