fasting: Red Letter Challenge

Prayer…cool. Worship…definitely. Read scripture…on it. Fasting…er, um. That’s moving quickly, right?

Seriously, of all the practices meant to help us grow closer to God and others, fasting is the one I have had the least experience with and the most difficulty incorporating into a regular rhythm.

This is not a good thing.

Fasting is a big deal in scripture as it is often connected with amplifying or preceding the power of prayer. (Here are 25 verses found in the Bible by searching “fasting” in the New International Version)

This season of Lent we are currently observing features Jesus entering the wilderness where “after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)

And that may be the primary reason I struggle with fasting. Fasting is about self-denial, it is to become “hungry.” Who wants to experience hunger? Who wants to choose to become weak and vulnerable? Who wants to suffer?

Well, as I have already shared, Jesus for one.

Dang it.

I want to be like Jesus but can’t I just choose the talk about God and serve others stuff? No? Fine, I guess I’ll have to figure out this fasting thing.

I do have some experience to build upon. As a youth leader, my wife, Catherine, and I led our group in a 30-Hour Famine several times. We didn’t sit in the church basement moaning and groaning about how hungry we were (it was only 30 hours and a good chunk of those were spent sleeping). Instead, we gathered the crew and headed into the neighborhood, knocking on doors asking our neighbors if they could donate canned food to feed those experiencing hunger they didn’t get to choose. It was a powerful expression of service with some modest sacrifice on our part.

Then there was the year I stopped drinking Diet Coke. I was addicted, plain and simple. I planned my travel on where I could stop and get refills. I skipped restaurants that didn’t serve my soda of choice. I drank a lot of that carbonated joy in a can. (really I preferred the fountain variety). Until one day, I decided I was spending more time thinking about Diet Coke than I was about Jesus. I gave it up and switched to Mountain Dew. Okay, that’s a joke. I stopped drinking Diet Coke and didn’t replace it with some other soft drink. I will occasionally have a soda now and then, but it’s few and far between.

Which brings me back to today. What has a hold on me? What demands my attention? What do I spend extra resources to enjoy? What do I focus on instead of Jesus? What do I turn to for comfort and a jolt of joy? There are many things I could probably list in response.

In this moment, I am naming coffee.

For the remainder of this Lent, I’m going to set it aside, I won’t pout or grumble or complain. I’ll do what scripture invites; no one (unless of course you’re reading this) will even know. And the time I would spend making and drinking and thinking about coffee will be given back to God. Every urge to make a pot of coffee or stop for a quick cup somewhere, I will offer a prayer. I will remember in these moments that God is with me and for me. God provides what I need, not some bean water.

Will my prayers get super-charged? Will I become more loving? Will I mature in my faith? I suspect I will. At the very least I will join again with all those who have, are or will deny themselves in big and small ways (this is a very small way) so they might open themselves to a fuller experience of God. I’m here for it. Join me?

Life is better together,

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