I’m a big guy. Always have been. Just a little bigger than most. I’m okay with that. Although, I was often an easy target for ridicule growing up. I wasn’t just big. I was soft. You know, a little doughy. I like food. I like all kinds.
Like any other thing that is enjoyable and even good for us, food can become a controller of our lives. I definitely had that problem and came to a realization in 2010 that something needed to change. My body was not a very good “living sacrifice” as the writer to the Romans would put it.
I had mindlessly allowed food to control me and I knew there was something better. So, I did something I had previously mocked. Have you ever done that? Scoffed at an idea or practice of someone else without trying it. I had written it off. I even had my “biblical” proof why it was ridiculous. It was even deemed “legalistic” by myself and others.
Fasting was out of the question. Until it became the answer.
A Journey With Fasting
Not eating to somehow become more spiritual sounded ridiculous to me. Even as I entered a time of prayer and fasting mid-January 2010, I was skeptical. Honestly, I was a little scared. I talk about fasting to people frequently and I can see it all over their face. The doubt. The questions. And the critical nature of both.
I’m a believer in fasting now. Nine years later and I’ve maintained some sort of fasting discipline every year. I don’t say this to brag. I’d like to teach about it and talk about it. I’d like to be a bit vulnerable and share my story and reasons for fasting. I do not hold this discipline strictly. I’ve benefited from the practice and I advocate for its usage. But not always for the reasons people think.
Most people believe fasting to be merely the absence of food. They watch documentaries of weight loss journeys and food battles and see people strictly avoiding food and taking their body through a grueling journey and decide it’s not for them. I can understand that. My views of fasting aren’t about avoidance or absence of food. It’s about addition through subtraction.
What gets added to my mind, body, and spirit through fasting is far more valuable than what I’m leaving behind. It’s about making choices. Taking control. Giving control. Being in control. All of these in more healthy ways. Most Americans have an issue with food, even if they aren’t willing to admit it. I know I did. I know I still do.
Fasting doesn’t magically break these chains. It doesn’t fix everything. But it does connect me to practices and perspectives that allow me to experience freedom. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from mundane. Freedom from unhealthy routines. And can’t we all use a little freedom? Fasting is great for healthy food practices but the impact on my mind, body, and spirit goes so much deeper and so far wider than I imagined. It’s a brilliant reset button. I think Jesus knew this. And I think it’s why he fasted.
So, here’s a few myths about fasting I’d like to address first. Then I’ll share my reasons for fasting in some way every year. Then I’ll talk a bit about my fast this year. Here we go. A few myths I often hear about fasting that I believe are problematic:
- It’s about not eating at all and that’s unhealthy. First, this just isn’t entirely true. Fasting can mean abstaining from food completely, and there are scientifically proven health benefits to this practice. Also, there are many types of targeted fasting that involve filling your body with the best things for a time. There’s a ton of wonderful information about the popular Daniel Fast. This is popular because of the recognized health benefits of eating this certain way for a period of time.
- I could never do it. This is beyond false and stems from either a false sense of self or pitiful excuse. If I can do it, anyone can. And I would even argue should. Again, it doesn’t have to look exactly like anything in particular. You can customize and fast according to your specific struggles. In reality, you can do more than you think.
- I don’t need to not eat food to grow spiritually. While this is true, it’s also not taking the entirety of our faith into account. As a follower of Jesus I cannot look at the life of Jesus without seeing significant times of retreat, prayer, and fasting. Immediately after his baptism Jesus was led by Spirit into the wilderness for one purpose, fasting. Prior to Jesus’ ministry was fasting. I need that same power if I’m to live by faith as a follower of Jesus. A great way to experience Christ is to have the experiences of Christ.
Here’s why I fast every year in some way:
- Fasting is renewal. There’s something special about being able to take our bodies and hit a reset button. Not literally of course. There’s no button like that. But there are times in our life that feel like something new is on the horizon and it’s all starting over again. Using these times to fast and prepare is a great reset. For me, fasting almost always coincides with the next new thing God is doing.
- Fasting is more than physical. While there are physical benefits from fasting and the discipline that surrounds it, it’s not solely physically beneficial. It’s mentally and spiritually healthy. I probably wouldn’t do it if the effects were only physical. I’m not a health and fitness person. Yes, those are good. Just not my hobby or passion. I am, however, into holistic health so far as that means connecting health to every aspect of my person. I’m imperfect at this, for sure. But fasting is one way I can actively participate in all that God is doing in me.
- Fasting is intentional. I like things that involve a plan and purpose. I like to see clearly the road. Or as clearly as life and faith allows. Fasting is a super intentional way to engage ourselves in better. To push ourselves to next. To risk pain and struggle for an end that matters. Jesus was intentionally led to fast. This wasn’t the end of his suffering. It was the beginning. There was more to come. This was preparation. I see fasting as intentional preparation for my work in the world!
This year my wife and I, and maybe a few others, will be doing a 21-day Daniel Fast beginning January 11th. We haven’t done this particular fast in a few years and it’s sure to be difficult. But it’s also sure to be beneficial. I have some big things I’m trusting God for this year. I’m also trying to find my rest, delight, and strength in my “Christ-identity” only. Meaning, I’m going to work towards my goals but surrender the results to God. I will not be defined by “success.” I will be defined by God and that’s a definition of love and acceptance.
Guess what? That’s not an easy mental exercise. I need mental and spiritual preparation. So, I will intentionally eat and drink in ways that challenge my mind, body, and spirit. I will be weak so God can be strong in and through me. I encourage each of you reading this to challenge yourself. Fast in some way. It could be a transcendent experience.