I like to eat

I like to eat. In the morning before going to work, I relish the sweet flavor of a bowl of hot oatmeal sprinkled with blueberries and drizzled with honey. At noon, I sit down to enjoy a hearty, hot cup of homemade chicken soup and a warm apple, cinnamon muffin. Back home again in the evening, my husband and I enjoy tender roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy and a spinach salad adorned with feta cheese and slivered almonds.
After eating a meal, I feel full, content, energized and strong. With food for fuel, I motor through my day with ease whether it is teaching a classroom of sixth graders or cleaning my house. And as eating energizes our bodies, so fasting from food fosters our faith.
In the Old Testament, fasting coincided with the confession of sin; Nehemiah 9:1-2, grief; Esther 4:3, and seeking God; Daniel 9:3. Individuals fasted, 2Samuel 12:22 as well as communities, Esther 4:15.
In the New Testament fasting is associated with serving God; Luke 2:36, with prayer; Matthew 17:21, and when making important decisions; Acts 14:23.
Fasting generally means going without food or drink for a period of time. Frequently practiced and a viable custom in Biblical times, it now seems that fasting falls under the category of a lost discipline and maybe even to some, unpractical. But for me, fasting is a worthwhile spiritual discipline that hones my awareness of God like nothing else does.
I do not fast in order to lose five pounds quickly, nor do I use it as a method to cleanse my internal organs. Abstaining from the three times a day ingestion of food gives my body and mind rest from the routine of consumption.
“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.” Matthew 6:16-18 The Message
In the same manner that my belly notifies me when I need to sit down and eat, my spirit informs me that it’s time for me to fast when I am hungry for the thoughts of God.
Normally I will schedule a weekend away at a monastery, but, I can also abstain from a meal or two at home. Though the monastery offers an isolated and quiet setting with fewer enticements, I do not always have the luxury of time or the finances to get away. The most important component to my fast is to simply know that it is time to fast and to just do it. Location is irrelevant.
When I abstain from eating and my belly growls to be fed, I wonder if it is really necessary for me to fast. But, as the hours go by, and I turn my mind from thinking about food to intercessory prayer, my doubts subside and peace infuses me. Though I sense the hunger in my tummy, I feel spiritual fortitude in my soul.
When fasting, my get-up-and-go power is greatly reduced. With limited energy, it is easier to sit in contemplation, read my Bible, and pray. I don’t want to waste my reserves by checking my e-mail or making phone calls, so when possible, I fast from technology as well as from food. With restricted physical strength and a silenced phone, it is easier to settle my attention on the vital work of prayer, and listening for answers.
Fasting allows me to feast on God. Though I read scripture daily, listen to sermons and worship corporately every Sunday, an empty stomach is a visceral reminder of my dependency upon God. Constant hunger, for a brief time, heightens my spiritual awareness of my innate need for God. Being still and knowing God go together like bread and jam.
When I end my abstinence, whether from one or many meals, I am almost giddy with delight. I feel refreshed and renewed. I bring my dormant taste buds back to life by dining on oatmeal, blueberries and honey or a bowl of vegetable beef soup or roast beef and mashed potatoes. With sustenance in my belly my sense of strength, contentment and energy returns. I step back into the normal rhythm of my routine.
But, I am not the same. Practicing the discipline of fasting always sharpens my attentiveness to the wonders of God. My heart pulsates with gratitude for my salvation. My assurance in God’s faithfulness to answer my prayers is fortified. My eyes take in the beauty of creation and I feel empowered by God to emulate His blessings to family, friends and strangers. Fasting enriches my ability to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”