Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fasting with your heart

As the season of Lent begins, many of us around the world will also be entering a time of fasting for the next 40+ days until Easter. We will give up our favorite foods, decide not to engage in certain behaviors, make new commitments to pray and study. I know because I do this too! Every Lent I give up certain things in my diet, using this period as a time of physical cleansing. There's something about fasting during alongside millions across the globe that gives me the spiritual strength to sustain my commitments.

But like anything we do for God, we must be careful not to let the act and ritual supersede the opportunity for transformation.  Fasting is not about gratifying yourself with how holy you are but rather an opportunity to position yourself to unleash the power of the Spirit and walk in love.

What do I mean by this?

1) Fasting enables you to draw nearer to God. To realize the power He has gifted you to overcome any vice that you may have allowed to take control. After Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, He was greatly tempted. Yet, he was able to overcome these temptations because He knew His own power. He knew who He was and who knew who God was. Likewise, when we're in the wilderness, the opportunity is available for us to realize our own power to make decisions about the direction of our lives and what we will let master us. We can remember that we are co-creating with God.

2) Fasting is an opportunity to connect more deeply with others in service.  When we  strip away all the outer things that we don't need and get back to the core of who we are, which is love, we realize how deeply connected we are with others. In Isaiah 58:6-11, the Lord asks, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." When we fast and connect more closely to God and ourselves we are able to see each other with more compassion.

3) Ultimately, fasting is an opportunity to go within and to really open your heart. Whatever you are giving up, use that as a triggering mechanism to remind you to keep an open heart, to forgive, to receive love. It's not about who sees what you are doing or showing God your ability to sacrifice. Ask yourself, what is the nature of my heart in this season?  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.


It's not my intention to try to convince anyone to fast or participate in Lent. I don't get caught up in such matters. But as we continue on our path, I just use this as an example to remind us to always be conscious of actions and for what purpose we are engaging in them. Our spiritual practices and rituals can be beautiful opportunities for us to go deeper in our relationship with God, ourselves and others. That is my prayer.

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