What a great 21-day period my family and I experienced during a time set aside for fasting and prayer. It’s actually the first time we’ve committed to a long-term season such as this, thus, due to the newness of it, I did a little research. I wanted to be informed. I wanted to honor God. And I wanted to be filled with His wisdom.
After much prayer, thought, and discussion, my husband and I decided to fast from breakfast and lunch, then would share a family meal together. In addition, he stepped aside from social-media, and I… well it changed through this 3 week period.
This leads me to the first lesson that hit home with me throughout this process:
1. Commitment is honorable, dedication gives action to integrity, but the heart of every decision is most important to the Lord. I am a girl who, once committed, is all in. I’ve been this way since I can remember. My family lived this value, the benefits one reaps from sticking to a commitment are great, and the stubbornness I’ve been given pushes me mentally. This is how I approached week 1 of this fast – focus, goal-oriented, eyes on the prize of finishing this “race”. And then, I was tested – in ways I had yet to experience. Sure, in moments of hunger pangs, I could remedy this cravings just by walking over to my pantry and reaching in, but I didn’t. I was sure tempted, and in those moments, I shifted my attention to God. At moments I simply asked for help, other moments, my thoughts rang to someone to pray for, still other times I grabbed a phrase that reminded me of the purpose of this fast – prioritizing time with God and trusting in His provision.
2. Delayed gratification teaches soul-deep gratitude. It wasn’t that I would never eat, it was just that I needed to wait. I wouldn’t starve. In fact, I thought about how many families around the world eat perhaps one meal a day, and it doesn’t even come close to the meal that I would plan diligently each day. I tell you, I savored the meals we would sit to enjoy at the end of the day. In moments of desperation, I would break the day up in short chunks to keep my desires at bay. I anticipated serving my family, and even found myself enjoying time in the kitchen (big growth for me). In this instant society, I learned to train my body to wait. Hunger hit about the same time every day, and every day it would learn to wait. I had to boss it around a bit, but slowly it adapted, and didn’t visit me any longer with such angst. I also adjusted my exercise schedule. I learned to wait for opportunities in my day, and become satisfied with shorter runs or a slower pace. In a similar fashion to my time in Honduras last summer, I knew this season would lead me on a new path in trusting my all-knowing God, over my limited-self.
3. I can gravitate towards legalism. Jesus fulfilled the law and now I live under grace. There were days when I had to lean into a change of plans. There were moments when food was required at different times depending on the events of the day. It was in these moments that my heart, in all sincerity, leaned into God and listened for his answer. In checking my heart, I was checking for my motives. If my heart was bent on entitlement, on what I deserved, it wasn’t pure, it was bowing to a temper-tantrum. If I was asking in that moment, free to accept a yes or a no, I could trust the answer I felt whispered across my soul. And I acted, and I moved on. After all, the point was to honor God, and that means trusting where He leads any moment, not stubbornly holding onto a “law” I created with good intentions. This left a mark on my forehead, my stubborn forehead. And also left me with an amazing reward, a sense of freedom and peace that actually accompanies flexibility encased in grace, not judgementality that accompanies a law. And my children were watching and asking. They held me accountable.
4. God wants to shapes my heart and my character, by however means He deems appropriate for me. This includes ways I would never choose. Because I’m a dumb sheep that needs a shepherd. My selfish heart will lead me to selfish places if I let it. And when I let it, I know it, and it feels crummy. For example, I began to knock off a bit earlier at night, and by that, I mean I crawled into bed, pushed a remote button, and allowed useless junk to fill my mind, all because I wanted to lay like a lump and escape the world for a bit. And escape I did, into time wasted hearing selfish people want more and more materialistic things that matter not in this world… and it gave me dumb dreams that stole my good REM sleep time. And I heard him whisper to me through a Sunday message of the last week, “Give this to me Heather.” And I did. And it was sweet. Does it mean that TV is evil? No, it just showed me that my heart was stinky. And I obeyed. And my attitude improved.
5. Lastly, this didn’t just change me for 21 days, it changed me for life. From one who dabbled in my past with a bit of anorexia, I wasn’t sure if I could handle this period of going without. Honestly, I was a bit mad that He would ask me to enter this commitment knowing bad habits I could easily fall prey to again. And yet He asked. And I needed to choose whether I would trust in His new creation, or fall prey to my old self. I decided to trust, and I learned more about His strength in me. I’m telling you, it can conquer anything, even your soul-deep fears. In fact, it even conquered death. So who are we to fear? I can now say that food no longer has control over me. I now believe I can determine the difference between healthy and unhealthy, and that if I choose unhealthy, He will steer me back, every time. There is power in that! As my pastor says, I am not a body with a soul, I am a soul with a body. He created me and sees me as beautiful. To think any differently is as if I’m calling Him an idiot. I never want to do that. God doesn’t make mistakes. And It didn’t start with me.
I’m very grateful for this time of prayer, reading, talking, and listening with my Lord in new ways. I can so easily spent my time doing numerous other things. I’ve slowly re-entered eating three meals again, but haven’t cut back any on my daily conversations with the Lord about my thoughts, events I will enter into, or communion with others. My prayer is to continue to drop my prioritization of tasks over time at His feet…
Luke 10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”