I’ve fasted two times in my life. The first time, I was 10, and had just learned what the word “fast” meant: not eating for a whole day. As a kid, it fascinated me, so I decided to do it. I made it all the way until suppertime, but my mom made me eat a peanut butter sandwich or I couldn’t go roller skating … I think she did it more for her sake than mine, because when Brandy is hungry, Brandy is cranky.
The second time I fasted was in college. A group of us was doing a Bible study, and we decided to fast for a day. The day went okay, but if anybody had walked in on us as we broke our fast that evening, they would have thought we hadn’t eaten in weeks, not just a mere 24 hours. All you could hear was grunting and lip smacking as we consumed everything that wasn’t moving.
So, my experiences with fasting haven’t been great. But hey, I figured the third time was the charm, right? When the preacher suggested fasting in relationship to the sermon he had given on prayer, I thought it was a good idea. I do certainly have a lot to pray about. I’m losing my job in a few months and dealing with a lot of family issues, so a day where I could take some extra time out for prayer and meditation sounded wonderful. The reality was a little different, and I learned a day in the life of a novice faster is not always a pretty picture:
Wednesday, 5 a.m.—I drag myself out of the bed, as I do every morning, and stumble to the shower. A sticky note on the kitchen counter reminds me, “YOU’RE FASTING TODAY.” I didn’t trust my pre-noon brain to remember not to eat breakfast. Right now, I’m feeling good about things. Fasting is fun!
7:30 a.m.—I head off to our weekly staff meeting. When I open the door to the conference room, I am met by fresh fruit, sweet rolls, ham biscuits and juice. I immediately begin to drool, and think about locking myself in my office. But no, this is just part of the day. So what that I forgot we were celebrating Boss’s Day with a morning break? I can handle this. Then the questions begin. Why aren’t you eating? Aren’t you going to have something? Are you sick? What’s wrong?
I smile and shrug off their questions, even when one coworker laughs, “Oh, she’s just fasting for religious purposes.” If you only knew.
8 a.m.—Break is over, and I help to clean up the food. More torture. I come too close to licking the frosting off of my finger from one of the rolls, but catch myself just in time. Whew, that was too close for comfort, so I pass my cleaning duties to someone else.
11 a.m.—The morning has passed fairly uneventfully. During some free time, I even had a few moments to dig into the Bible, something I haven’t been doing nearly enough. But that peace was shattered like so many potato chips (mmm … potato chips) when there was a knock on my door, and one of my coworkers asks if I’m ready for the lunch meeting. Lunch meeting? Oh boy.
11:30 a.m.—We pull into the parking lot of Subway to pick up lunch for the meeting. Don’t ever go to Subway if you’re fasting. The small of fresh baked bread slams you in your already empty stomach, then saturates every fiber, leaving you with the aroma for the rest of the day. But I persevere. Even though I have to exercise extreme will power not to gnaw on my sweater sleeve, which smells just like Subway’s new parmesan oregano bread. Sigh.
4 p.m.—I’m finally home. My stomach is still empty, my head hurts, and my mood has soured … like milk (mmm … milk). I take my Bible outside, avoiding walking through the kitchen, and just spend some time with God. I don’t have any grand revelations. Just sit at the feet of God, expressing my fears and talking through my pain.
5:30 p.m.—I’m about to do the stupidest thing one can do when fasting: go to the grocery store. I need to pick up a cake mix for the next day’s fellowship group, and I think I can handle it. As I browse the aisles, my stomach causes such a ruckus that people are starting to stare. I stare at row after row of food that I can’t eat and realize what a grave mistake I have made. I grab the first box I see and sprint for the door, leaving the stock boys behind me to clean up the drool puddle I left on the floor. Fasting sure can be humbling.
9 p.m.—My head is pounding, and I am exhausted. I decide to turn in early tonight … if I can sleep over the rumbling of my stomach.
Thursday, 6:30 a.m.—I’ve just arrived at work. My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, and I want nothing more than to eat the biscuit before me. But not yet.
What did I learn, besides the fact that I’m a big wimp? Well, the extra time that I did spend with God was wonderful. He didn’t reveal anything spectacular to me … no writing on the walls, unless it was in the kitchen, which I avoided like a death trap. But He did show me that I need Him. Without God, I can do nothing. But with Him, I can do anything. Easy to say, but hard to understand. My day of fasting was difficult, but helped to clear some of the fog of fear and doubt that had settled over me. I saw clearly that I needed to humble myself before the Lord, and not try to act more important or powerful than I really am. He sees the real me, the one who hungers and thirsts for not only bread and water, but for the love of God.
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