Thursday, May 29, 2014

living as someone who wants

One spiritual discipline that I've never been able to get on board with is fasting. It sounds good, all ascetic and holy and deny thyself. But when I take food out of my day I wind up cranky, distracted and wondering where my answers to prayer are. Then (confession) I eat all the carbs in sight. As you might imagine, I feel anything but holy after all that.

I've tried a few different kinds of fasts - no food at all or just eliminate certain kinds of foods, for a meal or a day or for weeks. The shorter ones are easier, because they're over more quickly, but usually they're of the no-food variety. The longer ones sometimes start well but turn into a game of will or wondering if I'll loose any weight.

I suppose part of the problem is that I'm not sure what I'm supposed to expect. I'm more accustomed to fasting as tied to a specific need or request. So, perfectionist that I am, I figure if I can get this down, do it right, maybe I'll actually get the thing I want. But I'm pretty sure it's not as easy as that, or America might not have an obesity problem.

A few weeks ago, a friend gave me a new perspective on fasting. I stood in the kitchen with her as she cut the pie she'd made for our dessert. After she carefully slid the slices of sweet fruit and crust onto a plate, I dolloped some hand-whipped-cream on top and added a fork to the plate. She said the pie was a recipe experiment, and I asked what was in it. She listed a few ingredients, including maple syrup and honey as the sweeteners. Turns out she was fasting from refined sugar until an answer came. An answer to what? I wanted to ask, more to understand how long she might be waiting to eat sugar again than to pry into her prayer life. But I decided she'd offer if she really wanted to talk about it. Her husband was fasting, too, for the same thing, but he gave up coffee instead.

Since sugar and coffee are my two greatest loves (read: addictions), this couple's commitment to receiving an answer stuck with me. I thought about the things I'm really wanting in my life, things that might move me to make that kind of decision - to forego something that I love and brings me comfort and is a part of my daily routine, all because I love this other thing more. I decided (after praying) to try it, and friends, it has not always been pretty. The first few days were pretty uneventful, and then it hit me: this could take years. I might have even cried.

But the cool thing is that crying over what I gave up made me also cry over the thing I'm asking for. The process (it's all about the process...) has made me even more committed to what I want to see God do. Hell yes, I thought (ironic, I know), I want to see God do that. "Fasting until" has also made me live as someone who wants, someone who waits a little more actively than I was before.

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