Sunday, 12 August 2018

Fasting for a Lifetime

After eating this lovely meal, I said to my friend that it may be
hypocritical for me to now go home and write a blog post about fasting.

I need to make it clear from the start that the type of fasting that I am advising may have very little to do with one's diet.  This also won’t be a critique on the actual fasting that people generally do nowadays.

I fasted from food once in my life, and I regret doing it.  It was something that I did as part of a youth event through my church.  It was called 30-hour famine, and I believe it was to raise money for World Vision.  For thirty hours I ate nothing.  I drank nothing but water and one cup of apple juice.  Perhaps someone with medical experience could confirm the likelihood of this happening, but I am pretty sure that fast weakened my stomach’s ability to handle spicy foods.

For more than a decade, I was not a fan of fasting, and wasn't very interested in looking into the topic.  I have heard people talk about fasting from other things besides food since then.  One year I gave up spending time on my computer for a stretch.  I ended up concluding that if I was really meant to give something up, I should do it anyway and not simply do it for a stretch and call it a “fast.”

A single sermon (I highly recommend checking it out) got me thinking about fasting in a whole new way.  Often the way we think about fasting today is based on us wanting a result.  We want God to hear our prayers, and to answer us in something that we are serious about, so we fast.  I learned that fasting in the bible was used in a much different way.  It was used not to get a result, but as a result.  Many of the occasions of fasting in the Bible fall into three different categories:
1.  Something with great spiritual importance happens - such as the case when Moses went without food or drink on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28), or when Jesus went to fast in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13).

2.  A great tragedy happens - such as in the case when Samuel dies (2 Samuel 1:12), or when the Jews hear of the plot to kill them (Esther 4:15-17)
3.  Turning away from sin - such as the case of Israel when they turned away from their idols in 1 Samuel 7, or in the case of Ezra when he grieves the sinfulness of his fellow Israelites (Ezra 9-10)

I realized something by looking at the similarities between the three categories, and I arrived at something that even the nonChristian should be able to recognize, even if it doesn't mean as much to them as it does to a Christian:

When something big happens, it is appropriate to respond in a big way.

One of the biggest, most recognized tragedies within the last year in Canada was the Humboldt Broncos bus crash which killed sixteen people and injured thirteen.  It wasn't enough to simply mourn the loss of lives, and to offer prayers.  What we also did was raise money for the victims who survived the accident, and for the community that surrounded them.  Many wore the colour green and put their hockey sticks outside in recognition of the tragedy.

Usually when I see people fundraising for a cause, those people have some sort of connection to that cause.  A person handing out yellow ribbon pins for suicide awareness may have lost a loved one to suicide.  A person running a marathon for a cure for cancer may have gone through cancer themselves or know someone who has.  I can't forget the man who donated to the food bank at Sobeys because he himself had benefited from the food bank at one point.

If we truly care for a cause, we will go out of our way in support for it.

Recently I had a coworker die from lung cancer.  I wanted to do my part to fight the reality of the predominance of lung cancer.  It saddens me that despite all we know scientifically about how harmful tobacco products are, the smoking trend is still going strong.  I personally wrote an email to Sobeys - a company known for pushing healthy food and that cares for local communities - explaining that tobacco products really have no good reason to be in their stores, and that they should completely stop supplying them (I haven't yet heard back from them after a couple of weeks, and I wouldn't mind if a bunch of others got on their case about the same thing, in a respectful manner).

I could be accused of focusing too much on the negative.  There is benefits to recognizing the problems in this world and doing our best to change them.  But if that's all we are focusing on we are going to have very depressing and discouraging lives.  What I am trying to say isn't just to connect to the the pain.

What I am saying is that if something is true and that if it matters we should behave like it does.

Something else that is true is that we are surrounded by beauty.  We are surrounded by the beauty of nature, the beauty of human creativity, and the beauty of our relationships with others.  It's often best to connect to those things and be thankful for them.

The reason that Christians should be filled with joy is because we connect with the fact that God loves us, and that He saved us, and that we get to spend an eternity in Paradise with Him.  When we connect to that joy, we should not be as discouraged by the pain in this world or distracted by the pleasures this world has to offer.

The reason that I spent so much time talking about connecting to the pain in the world is that that seems to be a big weakness in myself, as well as in many of the people that surround me.  People know they should connect with the good.  Life is pleasant for many of us, and we don’t want to ruin our happiness but zoning in too closely to what hurts.

A fast is something that affects our lives in a noticeable way.  When we fast, we grow hungry.  When we are hungry, we are generally miserable, irritable, and not as pleasant to be around.

I know firsthand how generous the community I live in is; I see the sheer amount that people raise for the food bank through the Sobeys.  But how much does what we give make our lives more difficult?  How much are we willing to sacrifice comfort in order to connect with the pain, and to live like it is true?

If you are like me, it would take something pretty big to delay a meal for more than a few hours.  But we are living in a world where very important things that matter are happening all the time.  It’s not my place to tell others what to do, but it seems to me that whatever it is, it won’t involve merely living in whatever way makes us the most comfortable.