I was raised in the Catholic church and for most of my upbringing, fasting meant one thing: no meat on Fridays. For me, the worst part of that was my mom would usually prepare fish – and I hated fish. I even remember that McDonald’s would seem to ramp up their filet-o-fish advertisements during Lent. So gross.
During my medical residency, my home church initiated a weekly corporate fast that they called “Fruits of the Fast.” We were invited to fast from one meal every Tuesday and then, as a congregation, we would collect and donate the unused finances from that skipped meal to some local charity. It was during this season where I exercised and found the initial definition in my fasting muscle. For the first time, I longed to know more about fasting and I desired to embrace this inner discipline of fasting for myself.
I consumed Robert Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” in this same season and loved the legacy of the fasting forefathers that he shared: “Moses the lawgiver, David the king, Elijah the prophet, Esther the queen, Daniel the seer, Anna the prophetess..” and on and on the list goes. I used Foster’s advice as my manual and I grew from our corporate church’s partial fast to 2 and 3 meal fasts and eventually advanced into a 5-day fast one year during passion week.
A few years later, I was newly married and now had someone in my home to consider on my days of fasting, and I had been in a year-long study on the prophet Isaiah. It was here, in Isaiah 58, where I can across this passage: “Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed? Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” Isaiah 58:3-4
I was so convicted. You see, I had been able to previously micromanage my days of fasting by avoiding others if I saw the preliminary signs of my “hangry self” brewing. Now I had someone I could not avoid – my husband. I never “struck him with wicked fists”, praise the LORD, but I didn’t look any different on my days of fasting and in fact, these days almost seemed to precipitate an increase in our strife and quarreling. I felt like such a hypocrite and I knew something had to change.
We were soon expecting our first child, Ethan Tobias, and my husband was not comfortable with me fasting from food. It made me chuckle a little, as I’m an Ob/Gyn and could show him plenty of evidence-based medical journals supporting partial fasts, but I chose to submit to his wishes. It was during this time that I started to explore non-food fasting opportunities. I sat before the LORD and asked Him to reveal anything that might have taken a wrongfully elevated position in my heart. I fasted from Diet Coke, cellphones, and even negative self-talk.
It was in 2012, as my family and I were preparing to move here to Uganda, Africa, when I found myself convicted once again by Isaiah 58.
“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 him, 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.” Isaiah 58: 6-9
This is what we were about and our missionary prayer cards declared it – “proclaiming freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). This is what I had been praying for as I longed to grow in the gifts of the Spirit, “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy…” (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10)
I was convicted once again that my seasons of fasting needed to bring honor and glory to the LORD and draw me closer to Him alone.
So this brings us to my 2018 Lenten fast. When asked about it initially from our HopeIsHard moderator, I was actually annoyed at the thought of denying myself yet another thing. My first (awful) thought was, “We live in Africa, haven’t we given up enough Lord?” I reluctantly went before the LORD asking if there was indeed anything He needed me to move out of His way…
The response was NOT what I expected.
It was, however, loud and clear:
“What, wait… why!?” “You can’t really be serious?!?” were the litany of responses streaming from my heart to heaven.
His answer seemed too personal. You see, we have sacrificed to be here, but I have been okay with most of it as they are all just “things.” I’ve always been aware that I will never run with the Kardashians when it comes to fashion or pop culture, so living here or there would have no affect on that.
That said, however, I am a people person and I need my people. I want to know when Vanessa’s husband builds a new back porch and see pictures of Lisa’s newly adopted sweetheart. I long to watch videos of Meredith’s baby girls walking and I even like to test what famous actress I resemble from time to time. Please don’t take away my only “connection to the real world.” Please Lord, NO.
Well, the LORD had been strengthening my inner discipline of fasting for “such a time as this.” As I sat in obedience, He began to reveal His why.
- He reminded me that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139) – and not just because of a number of shares that one post or blog generates.
- He gently breathed into me “His extravagant love for me, His child” (1 John 3) – as my true source of approval and not the grand total of ‘likes’ received in a day.
The truth is that while I’m choosing obedience, I miss you my friends! I look forward to seeing you all again on April 1st but rest assured, I will return rooted and established in His love alone. Hopefully your lenten fasting will see you growing in that same rootedness and love!