I wasn’t sure I’d still be fasting today. It’s day three and as of this writing I’m 68 hours from my last bite of food - but it isn’t my hunger or the way I feel that would have broken my fast this morning. Who I am would have broken the fast.
I know without a doubt that I could pull through until Friday and even Saturday. I’m past the real biological pressures to eat and have slid into the groove of slowly diminishing energy stores. The problem is that, at this point in the fast, I am faced with the reality that my capacities as husband, father and pastor are reduced. This morning I had to do some personal reflection and consider if my spiritual discipline was in fact compromising my other duties.
Any spiritual discipline goes astray when it begins to negatively affect others. That’s the point of Jesus’ words in Matthew regarding fasting. He doesn’t teach against the practice at all. Instead, he makes it clear that the way some were fasting was incorrect - precisely because of those who were observers. Their arrogance and showmanship of their fasting would cause some to be disgusted and eschew the practice while certainly leading others into a false piety that trusted in the act of fasting to earn righteousness. But tuning into oneself is required as a part of fasting in order to prevent disobedience in the guise of obedience.
And tuning into self is when we see Jesus. Not where, WHEN. When I force myself to ask the question ‘can I perform at an acceptable level today to be a husband, father and pastor’ I’m forced also to examine where my standards are in those regards. The obvious outcome is a total examination of myself and all my shortcomings. I feel like I do a pretty fricken good job in those categories…and then I look deeper in the midst of a fast and see just how much progress I have yet to make. To fast is to be humbled and realize how dependent I am on the grace of God.
Which is another fasting thought I had today. I have become far too dependent, far too soft. If you were to ask me and most any person on any random day what it is that I absolutely needed to survive I’d probably answer food and water.
And I’d be wrong.
While this hasn’t been a fast from water, I know from these experiences that I actually don’t need food or water today. I think I am dependent on so many different things that it takes stripping away the most basic and biologically urgent to realize that I am in reality dependent on nothing.
Nothing but Christ.
If I get hit by a car on the way home it will make no difference if I die with a full belly or three days fasted. Death will not care. My wife, family and parishioners will grieve me no more or less depending on my gastrointestinal contents. But I better have Jesus. If I have Jesus, my family and friends would grieve with assurance, and death would be sorely disappointed at his fleeting grip on me.
On day three of the fast, I see Jesus in the realization that I have become sinfully dependent on so many things that aren’t even mine to possess. I see how I must improve as a husband, father and pastor. I see how my own drive to continue a fast comes perilously close to making this exercise a competition against myself at the expense of the duties assigned to me. I see how that same competitive drive is detrimental to my relationships with others. I see not the frailty of my body, but the frailty of my heart. I see many faults in myself and in the world around me that it drives me near to despair. Today I see that there are so many things that fill my life that I simply do not need, that I feel ashamed of it all.
But in that place I have a sweet and calming presence. A voice that says ‘do not despair the things you have that you do not need. Rejoice that you have the one thing you do.’
Today, I see Jesus. The only thing I honestly need for today.
For those interested, the biological data follows:
After my workout today (if you can call 35 half-assed minutes on an elliptical a workout) I weighed out at 178.6. Almost a two pound drop from yesterday. I have been diligent about hydration which is a key to staying sharp minded. And that is another consistent characteristic of day three for me. While my physical abilities are certainly sub-par my mental acuity is sharper than ever. I would estimate a 20%-30% drop in my energy levels but that may actually be underestimating it. I’ve learned that when I get to this place I need to carefully manage my activities and scale way back the things I would normally do without thinking - hence the discussion above on my abilities to perform my duties. A slight headache and a slight latency between my perception and reaction time are pretty minimal but still noticeable. Oh, and I literally crapped the bed last night. Yeah, that’s a thing sometimes. Right as my wife leaned in for a good night kiss I involuntarily fudged my Fruit-of-the-Looms. And to be perfectly honest, I’m a little suspect of a recent event just prior to the writing of this that leads me to believe I’ve got a ‘clean up on the back isle’ situation going on. My body apparently feels the need to continue to take out the trash even when none is readily available and, like I said, I am very well hydrated.