Several years ago, I had a minor surgical procedure. It was scheduled in the afternoon, which was the first time I’ve not had a surgery in the morning.
For this surgery I was given the standard instructions: nothing by mouth (NPO) after midnight. I reacted immediately: this is ridiculous. When I’ve had surgeries in the morning I was told to fast after midnight. Why would I fast longer for an afternoon surgery? I pointed this out to Nurse Ratchet, but she was adamant, unmoving in her instructions. Of course, I rebelled in my own way. When I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I took a couple gulps of water.
My morning was awful, my attitude miserable – no coffee, therefore I was irritable- my mouth was dry- I was hungry….blah, blah, blah. Complete resistance to this manner of forced fasting!
Fasting is hard enough to do when we choose to practice it, but when it is forced upon us it can be even harder to comply.
But sometimes in life we have this choice, and sometimes the choice is imposed upon us, like many of the spiritual disciplines. For example, there are times when we have little choice for solitude and silence because we are new moms, trying to work out schedules that are suitable for having newborns. Money constraints are better implemented when we practice simplicity. Surgery forces us to fast.
Regardless of whether we choose to practice fasting or it is imposed upon us, I believe we can always learn from the experience.
Fasting is a discipline of abstinence, and even with my limited experience of it, I’ve noticed that fasting has brought me to a place of new understanding. I’ve come to realize I do not need things I thought I needed.
I’ve noticed that fasting has brought me to a place of new understanding. I’ve come to realize I do not need things I thought I needed.
Currently, one of these places of imposed fasting has been my involvement in church.
I have several things happening which the evangelical church seems to reject: I am a woman and I have crossed a certain age timeline
Throughout the last few months I have struggled with this. After all, my whole life has been one of involvement in the church. I became educated and trained to serve the church better. My desire has been to aid in the spiritual growth of others. Yet I have been disappointed over and over again. I need to add that it is not one church alone, but rather the larger evangelical community in which I have participated throughout these many years. All of them have left me with a sense of never being enough.
So, yes, there is this abstinence which has been imposed on me and, as a result, I am pretty resistant to it.
But just because this fasting has been imposed upon me does not mean there isn’t something to be learned from it. Whether I give up chocolate on purpose or if I must, I will still come to the conclusion: I miss it, but I don’t need it.
Don’t get me wrong. I know I need the Church and I continue to attend a church. I believe the Church is God’s community on earth. Commanded and necessary. Although, maybe the way I viewed the Church is not exactly right. Perhaps my sense of Church is being deconstructed into a brand-new thing. As they say, beauty from ashes:
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
So you see, I would not have discovered this if I wasn’t in a place of fasting, regardless if it was chosen or imposed.
What am I learning through this practice of imposed fasting?
- This fasting has given me an appreciation for those who are the Church in my life. It is a small group of people who follow the Christian journey alongside me.
- My fasting has led me to notice other streams in the Christian faith: the writings of past Catholic fathers and mothers, the zeal of the social justice warriors, and the worship within the Pentecostal experience. All are my brothers and sisters in the faith, co-travelers on this spiritual journey. I don’t have to agree with all of their doctrinal stances, but I can admire their focus.
- Fasting is best and easier when the resistance is released through recognizing the need of dying to self. It is Christ’s work and not my own. He will use me as he sees fit. I am a clay pot in his hand for common or noble purposes. (Romans 9:21)
- Christ is my sufficiency. In Christ, I am enough. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 1:6)
- In the end, my hope is God will take the ashes and create a thing of beauty.
Usually with a spiritual discipline, you decide the beginning and the end. There is no timeline on this current practice of fasting for me. I guess it will end when I have learned what God wants me to learn. Such is the way of imposed spiritual practice.
How is God bringing you to a place of understanding with the practice of fasting?
What resistance do you need to release for you to come to a place of peace?