According to Jesus, when we fast, we are to do it in a way that doesn’t blatantly give away that we’re fasting.
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.” – Matthew 6:16
Now, I understand the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law so I understand that Jesus is making a teaching point about not using our fasting as a means of getting attention and praise of people for things that we should be doing for the worship and love of God.
Meaning, I don’t think that if someone is fasting and they’re offered a Tic Tac, that they should come up with some elaborate story to refuse the Tic Tac to avoid saying that they’re fasting. (“No, thanks. My grandmother died choking on a Tic Tac and a Tic Tac made fun of my weight once when I was in junior high, so I’m good.”)
All that to say, a while ago I fasted with my wife and while doing so, I decided to record some of my thoughts so I could write about them later. (I just didn’t want anybody to read this post, go to biblegateway.com, look up Matthew 6:16, and e-mail it to me with some scholarly comment about how I already received my reward, which I also think was something Jafar said as the creepy old dude to Aladdin in the movie before he tried to stab him)
Anyway, here are some of my thoughts during a time when I fasted for three days. Three days might not sound like a long time, but even saying no to Jersey Mike’s on a full stomach is difficult for me.
– The brain becomes obsessed with something when we intentionally or unintentionally don’t have it. Food, rest, sex, pop, etc. And when fasting, the term ‘obsessed with food’ is not an overstatement.
– It’s amazing how many commercials are for food, which you don’t notice until every single shimmering beef patty and steaming pile of pasta is displayed on a 45” plasma screen in your living room at 8 times its normal size every 3.5 seconds.
– Never go grocery shopping when fasting. Unless you’re okay with coming home with a family pack of Ramen soup and almost every frozen pizza in the store.
– Food smells awesome. And the person next to you at Chipotle during your work lunch is totally taking it for granted.
– Water is gross after the 49th glass of the day.
– Gum tastes explosively awesome when it’s been the only thing in your mouth other than water.
– Water tastes even grosser after having gum.
– You will start to crave the baby food you’re feeding your infant daughter and occasionally the morsels of lamb and rice the dog is eating.
All in all, I kinda think fasting is like getting a tattoo. Leading up to it, there’s some excitement as you embark on something significant and meaningful (except for those of you who have a tattoo of some Loony Toones character, or barbed wire around your neck…those aren’t meaningful, sorry). You’ve thought about it, you know it won’t be totally pleasant, but you know it’s a big deal.
Then after a short period, your body is like: “What the…?! Why would you do this!?” And you think: I can’t really remember.
So those are my thoughts of fasting.
Not very deep or spiritual, but most of my thoughts are like that (for example: today I thought: When can we join hands across America and just admit that all of Katie Perry’s songs are super catchy?)
And as unpleasant as it might be, the truth about fasting is that it’s obedient. There are so many references to fasting throughout Scripture and times when fasting and prayer are linked together when seeking God. And more often than not I choose to just pray instead of fasting or doing both because prayer is familiar and easier. And even though I know this, it’s still hard to commit to fasting sometimes.
I want to see God move and hear Him speak more and more. And if part of how He tells me to do that is to deny myself cereal, cheese, and Buffalo Wild Wings, then so be it.