Well, it is 1/2 way through Lent, so if you’ve given up something… you have less than 20 days to go! Traditionally, Lent is a time of fasting and prayer where millions of believers, across many faiths, immerse themselves in this time of sacrifice to spiritually prepare their hearts leading up to Easter – the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. Fasting, Biblically is considered abstaining from food, but has changed over the years and can be honored in a variety of ways, from abstaining from sugar, or following strict dietary limitations, going meatless, or fasting from social media, or alcohol, etc. The point is to give up anything that may be becoming between you and your relationship with God, or something that might be becoming an idol for you, or unhealthy or bad habits in your life – (opposite example: in talking with my 14 year old about this, he offered to “give up doing his chores”… big difference on WHAT we give up here, haha!) This Lent tradition is a fairly new concept to me but I absolutely do love the idea of this season and what it represents. So if you are honoring Lent this year – you’re OVER HALF WAY THROUGH (I’m on Day 17, intentionally started 5 days late – long story), and I want to share with you what I am already learning through this fast right now. Something you might be able to relate to through your sacrifice this Lent.
Being the glutton that I am – this Lent I chose to give up food. I want you to know, it’s not easy for me to admit I’m a glutton. I long to exhibit ALL the fruits of the spirit and wish the thorn in my side wasn’t a lack of self-control with overindulging in things I enjoy. But I am honest with myself, and want to be honest with you (if only we were all a bit more honest with ourselves and each other about our struggles – think about the beautiful conversations we could have and the healing that could begin). This is something I’ve struggled with for a few years now and continue to pray that someday I look back and read these blogs about my struggles, and it will all feel like a distant memory. But I have also accepted that this may be the cross that I have to take up daily for much longer. However God wants to use this in my life, I’ve surrendered it to Him.
So I have fasted dozens of times before and continue to learn and grown so much through each fast. But I have NEVER fasted for 40 days. I do have to say, that my fasts include copious amounts of homemade veggie/fruit juice (big juicing fan here – that’s no secret, I’ve blogged many times before about it), so really I call it “Feasting in God’s Goodness“. It’s a spiritual and physical cleanse. The enlightenment I receive, the spiritual sensitivity I experience, the cleansing I go through, is really such an incredible process. God has given us a beautiful gift in fasting and has taught us about it all throughout scripture.
For me, fasting always brings to mind so many incredible correlations between fasting, faith, and living a Christian life. Here are some things that are being illuminated in my heart today that I’m feeling compelled to share:
THE GOAL: So the goal for me is 40 days of no food. Just as every believer / follower of Jesus should have the goal that’s set before us in the Bible – to live a holy life worthy of God. One of Jesus’s disciples says in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 “…because of the Lord Jesus, keep on living in a way that will please God. I have already told you how to grow in the Christian life. The Lord Jesus gave us the right and the power to tell you what to do. God wants you to be holy.” The New Testament is essentially our roadmap, our GUIDE, explicitly detailed on how to strive for holiness. What I want to talk about here is when we do mess up on our goal… does that mean that we’re not Christians? Or that we’re not believers? (or that I’m not continuing on my path of fasting?) I am on Day 17… and I have had a couple “bumps” in the road, like on Day 6 when I was making my kids lunch, I hadn’t had a morsel of food, and I was preparing their sandwich, with the soft white aromatic bread, and the sweet delicious looking strawberry jelly spread with the decadent creamy peanut butter… I prayed (as I had done dozens of times before… THAT DAY), and drank some water and thought… “I’ve done so well, I’m going to eat 1/2 sandwich”… and I did (and it was probably the BEST pb&j I’ve ever had!). And I felt SO BAD after. I had a goal… did I fail? Should I quit my goal just because I had a slip up? All this relates to our walk with God – just because we slip up, the important thing is what’s in our heart. Are we remorseful of our actions, turn around, and get back on the path? Or do we stop pursuing our faith / “goal”? Do we say… “oh well, I messed up here, or I’m too far away, so might as well cave in and_______” NO! We realize what we did was wrong, turn BACK, and hop back on the track. If we sin, does that mean we’re not a Christian any longer? If I ate a couple things in my 40 days of fasting, does that mean I’m not fasting any longer? Does that discount ALL of the other meals I passed, temptations God gave me the strength to endure? I chose to move forward, praising God for these opportunities to learn and grow closer to Him, even/especially when I do veer off the path. One last thought on this is when we do something(s) we know what we’re not supposed to, and continue to do it… are we really following Jesus then? Are we nonchalant about the sin in our lives? Are we justifying our actions? Saying we are Christians, but truly living hypocritical lives? If I continued to eat every day but still “said” I was fasting – does that make it so?
THE AVOCADO: Several days later, I was preparing my family’s dinner and was RAVISHED (between 3p – 7p are always the hardest times for me during my fast). I decided I was going to eat an avocado. After I ate the avocado, I thought “well, since I ate the avocado, since I ate… might as well eat something else”. The avocado is my “gateway food”; it’s a safe and healthy food that seems to open the floodgates to eating in general for me, when I’m fasting. This makes me think of “gateway sins”… something that seems harmless but can lead one down a path further or deeper into sin. “Sin” is a whole other topic… but some examples of this might be that movie that was pretty inappropriate and you knew you probably shouldn’t watch it, but did so anyways, which peeked curiosity or desire to up-the-ani and watch more. That glass or 2 or 3 of wine that you indulged in that opened the door to more drinking. That slot machine screaming your name that you know you shouldn’t pull. Listen, please hear me… we all have different struggles and different “avocados” in our life. As a glutton, the avocado is my “seemingly harmless” liaison to over indulgence when I’m fasting – probably not yours. You may be able to have a drink or 2 and be totally fine – but others have a hard time closing that door. Same as gambling, I could care less if I play a slot machine or blackjack, I can take it or leave it. We all have different struggles and temptations. I am just saying to be honest with yourself about what your struggles are. God knows, and wants to reveal it to you and help you along the way. He is a God full of grace and love, but He is also just. Read the Bible – it’s God’s Word and His instructions on how to live an abundant life in Him. If you don’t read the Bible, you don’t really know, and therefore how can you live for/with/in Him?
OPENING THE DOOR: This ties into the avocado above… just don’t open the door. It’s so much harder to have to close it. The temptation may feel really painful in the moment, but once the flood gates are opened, gushing through, it’s hard to sweep that water back in. This is a lesson that I know, but continue to have to “relearn”.
SUPPORT: I have the most amazing support system at home. I don’t really talk much about my fasting journey with others… but my family knows day in, and day out, what I go through. My husband supports me through my fasting times by taking over many of the meals. My 14 year old son is so sweet and asks me often how it’s going… and when he’s eating, he’ll usually comment “it really doesn’t taste that good Mom. I bet juice is better” (although he’ll NEVER taste it, haha). On day 9, I didn’t drink enough throughout the day (my juices hadn’t defrosted in time to take to work in the AM). I had worked all day and then my husband and I went to run some errands for a couple hours after work. It hit me like a ton of bricks; nausea, dizziness, my legs ached… I had never experienced this feeling during a fast but I knew what the problem was; I wasn’t properly caring for myself (more on that next). When we got home, I drew a bath and relaxed for over an hour soaking in the serenity. I drank a juice, listened to music and listened to a podcast – while my husband made dinner for the kids and handled bedtime while sporadically checking in on me. SUPPORT. This got me thinking about the importance of a spiritual support system. This walk of faith isn’t for the faint of heart. We’re going to go through really rough times of being convicted, tempted, treated differently, discouraged, attacked. We need to have a mentor, confidant, pastor, a friend in faith we can lean into when we feel the weight of the walk. A church family can be the biggest blessing – a beautiful community of other believers to grow in faith with together. A small group can be an incredible gift of walking the Christian life together and being there for one another amongst life’s inevitably difficult times. If you don’t even know where to start… reach out to me. Honestly. I OBVIOUSLY love to talk about these things, but even more, I love to listen and learn about other’s journeys too. It’s so good just to talk about deep, real life things.
SELF CARE: Which brings me to another really important phenomenon… self care. It’s the strangest thing but when I’m fasting, I care for myself really well. I drink copious amounts of water, and herbal tea. I obviously am dousing my body with an abundance of vitamins, antioxidants, micronutrients, etc. I go to bed early. I pray all throughout the day. I read the Bible consistently, I relish in my morning quiet time. I journal. I write (as evidenced here). I sit at the piano and play music. All these things filling my soul… and I take time to indulge in them. I always have this picture when I fast, of emptying myself and filling back up with His goodness. Something I don’t do so intentionally day to day out of a fast. But a spiritual fast really, honestly draws me closer to God on an exponential level. In our daily lives – I think we could all be more intentional with self care. Deliberate times throughout our days to care for our soul. It’s actually a commandment (my favorite one), the Sabbath. God commanded that we all take a day of rest each week – it’s THAT important.
BEING EQUIPPED / PREPARED: Lastly, I want to talk about being prepared. It takes A LOT OF PREPARATION to do a juice fast. Planning on what juices I’ll be making for the next few days, the shopping, the cleaning and prepping, the actual juicing. It takes me about 6-7 hours / week to juice for the week, I’m consuming about 64-80 ounces of fresh juice a day. All this investment in time and resources is returned abundantly though – the ROI here is invaluable. And what happens when I’m not prepared? Remember my nauseous day 9? This makes me think about Ephesians 6:10-18… where scripture so eloquently prescribes how we can be strong in God and His mighty power, telling us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” That takes an investment of time. That takes intentionality. We can’t just haphazardly live our lives and expect that the devil’s scheme’s won’t dizzy up our days, manipulate and lie to us – tricking us off the path of righteousness, stealing our peace, wrapping weights of doubt and deception around our feet to hold us down (have you ever had negative self talk? or not felt “worthy of _____”?). As we invest time in our lives to read Scripture, grow our faith, to learn and be enlightened through life’s truth – we’ll be equipped and prepared to extinguish the flaming arrows of evil being thrown at us daily.
In closing, I just want to say that this is each of our spiritual journeys. This is YOUR life, your ETERNITY. The only one you’re cheating is yourself if you’re not honest with your triggers, temptations, the realities of your life and your soul. This is hard for me to write and to be honest about. It’s embarrassing that I’ve struggled so much. In thinking about my fast, I WISH I could say I didn’t have a morsel of food in 40 days… but you know what? That’s not what this is about… it’s about the journey. All this is about our journey. I’m not going to let my stumbles along the way impede my goal. I’m not going to quit. I’m not going to let my sinful tendencies take over. I’m not going to let that ruin all the beauty and goodness that has come out of this process ALREADY (I still have a few more weeks to go, and so looking forward to what that will bring me)… all by the grace and strength of God. I’m fasting for 40 days, and I’ve had some bumps along the road, but I WILL NOT let it throw me off the track. The best things to gain in the world, are usually the hardest. What I choose to do is to learn from my mistakes and challenges, and catapult forward with that much more wisdom and insight – I pray you do the same! If you’re fasting in some sort of way, I hope you’re encouraged and empowered to stay the course. I hope that you take time to reflect on what you’re learning through this process and YOUR journey. And if you want to ease into all this… “40 days” is just a symbolic time, start next week. Start tomorrow. Pick some time to give up something, and let the process stretch and enlighten you. It’s all what’s in our heart – God knows.