1 Corinthians 11:29 “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself...”
My grandfather was an old time Pentecostal preacher and whenever he got the opportunity...he preached. And preached some more. He pastored a small church, in a small town in Oregon, but his life’s mission was to preach the good news to any warm body that would listen. With his family he had a captive audience. We grandkids would go over to his house and he would preach to us as we played, as we helped him pick green beans in the garden, as we swam in the creek, as we helped grandma bake cookies. And he also preached to us about fasting.
Most of us know that fasting is going without food and sometimes drink. Many of us have had to fast before a routine operation or blood test.
The body is an amazingly complex vessel. Everything works together in a beautiful symphony of biological science that I am not even remotely qualified to explain. But I do know the obvious: we cannot live for long without water and food.
And the body is so amazing that when it wants nourishment, it tells you! Loudly, with grumblings that sound like a runaway train. “Feed me, Seymour!” it shouts.
When a person is overweight that tummy does more than shout. It screams, shrieks, whines, complains, threatens to eat itself, and tells you it is going to pass out unless you give it a bag of chips right this second!
In many religions around the world fasting is a recognized way to tell your body that it isn’t in charge, your mind is running the show. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, a way for the inner part of you to rule over your physical self. It is a method of emptying the body so it can be filled with spiritual things.
I had always thought fasting was more for preachers like grandpa or the super spiritual Ghandi-esque types, those who valued meditation and organic veggies. I was a girl who valued the taste of a french fry dipped in chocolate ice cream.
All of my life my weight had yo-yo’d between average and chubby. And when I turned thirty the yo-yo had stopped firmly on the chubby side and had only grown since. So much so that I was one hundred and thirty pounds overweight when the little voice spoke to me. Ever buy a five pound bag of flour at the grocery store? Think of twenty six of those bags, that’s how overweight I was!
At the end of every day I was left with the knowledge that I just didn’t have it in me to give up eating. Six years of disappointment and my only consolation came from the grocer, the baker, the butcher, and the drive-thru.
So when the little voice said “Offer me this meal” I knew I was being asked to fast. Why a fast, I didn’t quite understand, because if I hadn’t mentioned it before I was seriously addicted to food. I could not go between meals without snacking. I had tried therapy and every diet known to man: low carbs, no carbs, all veggie and no meat, all meat and no veggie, the non-diet of ‘I’m just going to eat healthy’, the other non-diet of ‘I’ll just cut down on portion size’ …whew! I had done it all.
Fasting was not on my list of things I did well, or more honestly, even did at all.
So after I heard those words I dried my tears, cleaned up the kitchen, and prayed that God would help me fast. And then I immediately tried to wriggle out of it. It went something like:
Me: “Dear God, have I told you lately how heavenly You are? No? Well, my bad! Anyway, would it be all right to just fast snacking between meals?
God: dead silence.
Me: “Hmm. How about fasting meals, but okay on the snacking?
God: more dead silence.
Me: “Yikes….okay, how about I fast dessert? No cake, brownie, or cookie?”
God: the silence is deafening.
Since God was clearly not interested in any of my suggestions I decided to fast the next day, skipping breakfast and lunch. And once that decision was made I actually felt a spark of encouragement within me.
The next day I, and all my rolls, rolled out of bed, a little excited to begin the fast. As I made coffee (I was fasting food, not liquid) I thought, hey, maybe God will take away any hunger pains since this was all His idea.
An hour later my stomach staged a violent protest at being denied food. It was excruciatingly clear that there was no heavenly help for this fast, but I would humbly and nobly persevere.
Three hours later… I was ticked! Peeved! Irritated beyond words! Annoyed as heck (sorry for the bad language, grandpa). I was starving, literally starving and it was not even noon yet.
Five hours later… I began to seriously doubt that the little voice ever existed. Really, who listens to voices?
Seven hours later… looking out my kitchen window I see a pheasant and I begin to mentally pluck it, and envision it roasting in my oven, simmering in its yummy juices. Never mind the fact that I’ve never eaten pheasant much less caught one, I’m hungry!
Finally 5pm arrives, the time I told myself I could stop fasting, and I raced to the refrigerator. Pulling out leftover pepperoni pizza I scarf one piece down while I nuke the other 2 slices. Nirvana, I tell myself. But suddenly I’m aware that three slices of pizza is probably a lot. So I put one of the slices back in the fridge. Waste not, want not, I tell myself.