Today is Day One of my church’s Community Fast: a corporate fast, if you will. Unfortunately, I have been out of town for the holidays, so I haven’t been able to hear about it in person (also why this is such a late post: traveling!). But from what I have been able to gather, the fast will last until January 27th and is motivated by Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV).
The specifics of the fast is entirely up to us as individuals within the congregation – so, though those who choose to fast will all be fasting at the same time with the same motivation, the specifics of the fast (i.e. Daniel fast, full fast, social media fast, one-meal fast, soda fast, etc.) are up to the individual. I am impressed by our pastor’s emphasis on what fasting means: in his words, “to sacrifice something you enjoy for someone [Jesus] you enjoy more” (to subtract something from our lives) and, at the same time, to spend more time than usual with God (to add something to our lives). As well, our pastor has done a great job suggesting reflective disciplines that we can use in the midst of our fast in order to help us process.
One of our church traditions is to eat a meal together on Sunday nights. That will continue but will be Daniel fast-friendly in order to accommodate a majority of the participants in the fast. Then we will break the fast together with a light meal on the 27th. I haven’t gone to the Sunday night dinner before but am hoping to make it a weekly tradition of my own this semester. We really are in this as a community, and I’m excited about it!
When I first heard about this community fast, I thought it was a great idea and something I was totally up for. But since then, thoughts about it have pretty much slipped out of my mind until yesterday when I realized that it begins, uh, soon! As I prayed and weighed the options as to what kind of fast I would choose, I immediately thought to fast meat. But my immediate reaction to that thought was: But do you really have a spiritual priority in mind by cutting out meat? After all, you were a vegetarian for the majority of your life. And over the past few years, you’ve been going back and forth about a vegetarian/carnivore diet – so cutting out meat is not a new idea for you.
I processed this reaction for awhile and in the midst of processing remembered Rachel Held Evans’ fast from slave-grown coffee and chocolate as recorded in her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood (to be reviewed on the blog later this month!). Though her fast only lasted for a time – one month, if I remember correctly – she was so impressed by a desire to fight the injustice of slavery that she has “continued her fast” by buying fair trade coffee and chocolate even now. Her fast was clearly a choice motivated by spiritual priority, and her choice to fight injustice is, of course, spiritual as well. Certainly my concern with the meat industry’s epic mistreatment of their animals and the sanitation of the meat produced can be spiritual as well. For I want living beings to be treated well, and I want to eat food that will be good to and for my body; Jesus seems to care about the treatment of living beings and about our responsibility for how we treat our bodies.
I realize that I do not necessarily need spiritual justification in order to cut meat out of my diet, but what I mean to say is that I wanted to be sure that I had a spiritual priority in mind when choosing the specifics of my fast, no other underlying priorities (like: “calling this a fast will force me to stop eating meat, which will make me feel better about myself” or “fasting meat will help me decide whether or not to cut meat out of my diet altogether after the fast ends” – though please know that these two desires are legitimate, just not, I believe, to be prioritized in the midst of a fast).
I look forward to learning more about fasting in the midst of this process. And I can’t wait to draw near to God in this way. I believe that we are able to draw near to God at any moment under any circumstance, but I view fasting as a different-than-usual way for me to draw near to God – and I am excited for the experience!
What do you think about fasting? What has your experience been with fasting – great, good, bad, ugly? If you have any recommendations, what are some good articles, books, sermons, etc. about fasting?
January 5 Joy Dare: Something You’re Reading, Making, Seeing
Reading: The Language of Flowers
Making: Strides forward
Seeing: Sun-streaked, flaxen comforter
January 6 Joy Dare: One Thing in Your Bag, Your Fridge, Your Heart
Your Bag: A pile of cozy scarves
Your Fridge: Cranberry Ginger Ale
Your Heart: Joy mingled with settled peace
January 7 Joy Dare: 3 Graces from People You Love
1. Friends as airport shuttle-rs
2. Mai Sushi (yes, I realize it is a restaurant): for delivery that gave me great leftovers for today’s lunch!
3. An eager-to-welcome-me-back roommate