My Reflections on Fasting

I confess I never really “got” fasting. There were a few times as a college student I tried to fast by not eating at all on Good Friday. Usually I gave up by the afternoon when I got real hungry and grumpy. It seemed to make me fussy and focused on food. I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make me holier.
As an adult I have also done some dieting. After college I put on some extra pounds and I resorted to LA Weightloss, then after having a child I did South Beach, then after my second pregnancy I did the Belly Fat Cure. I tend to like diets that have very specific rules so I know exactly what I “can” and “can’t” eat and how much and when.
When I’m on a diet and lent rolls around I wonder, is it really a lenten observance to give up chocolate (which is what I always did growing up) when I haven’t had a bite of sweets since December 31? Or at least tried my best not to. 🙂
I think each of the diets I have tried have taught me something important about food. About blood sugar and protein and the importance of drinking water. Last year I saw a nutritionist to ask some questions. Mostly I found that I already know what I should and shouldn’t be eating.
What those diets can’t teach me is self control and temperance. It’s easy to “diet” when you know it will end when you finally lose those last 10 lbs. Being virtuous is supernatural.

Fasting without prayer is just dieting.
I think I heard that on the radio at the beginning of lent this year. I realized that all those times I “tried” to fast, I wasn’t praying! Are you saying “Duh!”? Well maybe there are a few of you like me who didn’t realize they were inseparable if you want spiritual benefits from fasting. This also explains why every diet I try isn’t really the “lifestyle change” I would like it to be.

Fasting is giving up the ordinary so we can focus on the extraordinary.
I asked a friend how she would explain fasting to children. This is what she told me. Fasting is giving up the ordinary so we can focus on the extraordinary. I think she had some help from you know who 🙂 (HS)
This also clarified a little more for me why it is so important to replace that time/money/energy/thought that would have been invested in food with thoughts and time with God. Plus practicing this kind of self control with something so simple could easily lead to a habit of replacing occasions for sin (including gluttony) with time with God.

Internal boundaries rely on God’s strength. Otherwise we would have changed already.
I recently read a book called Boundaries. The chapter on internal boundaries was particularly powerful to me. We want to change. We try to change. We know what to do, when, how and have all the necessary resources at our disposal. So why don’t we change? We need to rely on God’s grace to inspire us and sustain us if we are to change. Even with God’s help we will fail, but if you rely on God then when you fail all you have to do is repent and rely again! All we must do is turn to the person who is dying for you (well died for you actually) to repent and be forgiven, so that part is the easiest part of all.

Have trouble remembering to pray? I never forget to eat!
Saying grace isn’t just for thankfulness anymore. It can be an opportunity for examination of conscience. An opportunity to realize the presence of God. Or merely to invite Him once more to accompany and guide us in our day. God put a little a alarm in us. That “rumbly in my tumbly” can remind you not just to eat but to pray.

Nothing like a little hunger to remind us of what we really need.
One thing that strikes me when I fast is how little I really need. When I’m real hungry I stop thinking about all the things I would like to do or have that aren’t in the budget this year. And I realize that when I get that craving for a Dr.Pepper and I gotta have it right now, the reality is that I don’t. I don’t need it all. Suddenly His grace really is sufficient for me.

So the next time you step on the scale and think, oh man time to get back on that diet, don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit to participate. Fasting teaches us the self control and reliance on God we need to avoid sin. And dieting could make us holier if we allow it.

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