“When you fast. . .” Mt. 6:16
Many years ago Pastor Joel quoted the above verse, the very words of Jesus, and said something to the effect that fasting is an expected part of the Christian life. Jesus fasted and so should we. At the time that scared the dickens of me; I couldn’t miss one meal without getting woozy.
Stan, my long time accountability partner, has fasted many times. He told me about how after 24 hrs he would lose his appetite, have plenty of energy, and how his senses were sharpened and how he could feel the Spirit’s presence. I thought, “I’ll never experience that”–due to my long time problem with hypoglycemia. I miss a meal and I get weak, anxious and feel like I might pass out. Fasting seemed out of the question. Then I thought maybe I could go on a TV fast–not watch the tube for a few days. But I of little faith never even tried that exercise in abstinence for fear of failing.
I know there is a difference between fasting and dieting, but I think for the past six weeks I’ve been doing a bit of both. For months my weight hovered at 199. This was a couple lbs beyond my comfort zone, but I thought as long as I stayed under 2oo I was okay. Then in mid-June I went on a short-term mission trip to Scotland. It was chilly and damp there and I stoked the food into the furnace of my gut to help stay warm. Also, where we stayed, Sunnybrae Treatment Centre, we were exceptionally well fed. Creamy porridge and toast every morning, soup and sandwiches for lunch and then a great dinner every evening complete with dessert–fish and chips, burgers, bangers & mash, smothered pork chops–it was all good. Every sunday after church we had the lad’s favorite–chip sandwiches slathered in rich cheddar sauce. Even the haggis and tatties was wonderful, especially when followed by sticky toffee puddin’.
When I look at the pics of me taken at Sunnybrae I’m appalled; I look so bulky. But, in addition to the extra pounds, I was wearing three layers of shirts plus a light jacket; the temp never got out of the 50s. The trip was spiritually energizing but I returned feeling terrible physically. I felt lardy and bloated. My arthritic pain had never been worse and all my muscles ached. My left shoulder hurt so much that I thought I’d torn a rotator cuff.
I got on the scales several times the week after I returned and each time it registered 202. I’d gained 3 lbs in less than two weeks. I was appalled; in addition to the spiritual transformation I was undergoing I knew that I had to change something else very basic about my lifestyle. I made a decision to eliminate as much of the sugar and carbs from my diet as possible. Within just a couple of days I felt remarkably better. My arthritic pain and indigestion was cut in half. I felt energized; I was able to work out more and not feel sore the next day. I felt the best I’ve felt in years. There was no question that for me sugar was a toxin.
The remarkable thing is that I’ve not been on a diet. Dieting has usually been an arduous undertaking–painful, tedious. This has been sheer joy. I’ve pretty much just been eating one meal a day. I nibble a bit in the evening–mostly humus and rice chips. On my last foraging venture to Publix the scale registered 186–down 16 lbs in six weeks. The thought occurred to me about a week ago that this must be what fasting is like: “I guess I’ve been on a fast.” I suppose purists would argue with my motives. I really don’t care.
In addition to the changes in nutrition, I’ve stopped feeding my spirit junk-food–no talk radio, no world news, no sports, etc. Getting away from the preoccupations of the media has given my mind a rest–no Trayvon, no Casey, no Isaac, no RNC, no Bucs or Bears, hooray. The question is will I watch any college football this weekend? Probably not. I’ve kind of given up caring who wins or loses in that arena. Caring again would seem an unwelcome intrusion. I’ve been writing more and generally filling my mind with scripture, Eugene Peterson’s commentaries, good music and CDs of Graham Cooke’s uplifting teaching. I don’t really miss the world; someone breathlessly asked if I’d watched so an so’s speech at the RNC the night before. I almost laughed out loud.
Oh, repentance has been part of this process too. I’ve had to apologize to God about what a cynical, dark and worldly person I’d morphed into over the past few years. It was a slow insidious process that I knew was happening and yet felt unable to stop. I needed a transforming experience and the Holy Spirit, ever faithful, provided it.
So has it been a diet or a fast?