I give up
Will you give up too?
I’ve never fasted before, but this week our congregation is going to have a time of fasting and prayer as a way to connect during lockdown, and I think I might join them. Traditionally, fasting pertains to the willful refrainment from eating and drinking in order to use that time and energy to devote to God. I’ve often wondered, “Why food?”
While I was in Kenya, I saw for myself the time and effort expended in pursuit of a simple meal. For many, the primary focus of the day is to find and prepare food. Early in the morning, children could be seen along the road collecting sticks to start a fire. Water could be a six kilometre, several hour hike, and carrying back the jugs of water was obviously backbreaking. After building an outdoor fire and allowing the water to boil to ensure pathogens are killed, it’s time to start breakfast. Small stones and sticks are carefully picked out and separated from grains of rice, or cornmeal fermented for Uji, and for special occasions, an animal is slaughtered. This whole process is repeated twice more during the day... if you’re fortunate enough to have food for three meals. Realistically, most aren’t. A thick cornmeal bread-like substance is eaten before bed to fend off the hunger pangs during the night.
As I think about my own quest for food, it’s certainly a much simpler affair: my stomach growls, I search through my overflowing cupboards and find “nothing” particularly desirable, then either open a box and pop it into the microwave, or simply plop into my car and through a nearby restaurant drive-through for a scrumptious ready-made meal. I can be back home with a hot dinner on the table in fifteen minutes, wolf it down in ten, throw out the paper wrapping and be all done moments later. My effort towards a meal is certainly not as thoughtful, time-consuming or physically wearing as that of my friends in Kenya.
So when I think about the Spiritual discipline of fasting, I can scarcely believe that missing a trip or two through the drive-through is what the Good Lord intended. Missing a meal then, and for some now, means so much more than just being deprived of the pleasures of food. Missing a meal would also have factored in the time and effort Involved in procuring and preparing the meal. So when I ponder the discipline of fasting for our time, I’m drawn to determine the thing is my life that expends a great deal of time and energy and provides sustenance and pleasure. Sadly, for me, technology ticks all those boxes. In this day and place, it seems to be a more appropriate sacrifice. In that I use technology for my writing, my volunteer work, and for church (and presumably for the prayer and fasting service), I’m not sure I could give it up entirely, but I am going to try.
Now how to use that time and energy? A very good question.
2 Chronicles 7:13-15 explains, ”if I send an epidemic among you, then if my people will humble themselves and pray, and search for me, and turn from their wicked (evil, sinful) ways, I will hear them from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land. I will listen, wide awake, to every prayer made in this place.”
Sure, I’m not perfect, but wicked, evil or sinful? Sinny, sinish, sinable maybe, but full of sin? Evil? I don’t like to think of myself that way. True, by definition not-perfect is sinful, but it sounds harsh, doesn’t it? I guess truth is harsh sometimes, that’s why we really don’t want to hear it -- but truth it is just the same.
In this season, I will fall on my knees, humble myself, take time to recognize and acknowledge my sin for what it is, search for Jesus, welcome him in my life and pray forgiveness so that our world will be healed.
Will you join me?