16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-18 NIV
Jesus warns us not to practice our pious acts in front of others – not to do them so others will think us pious or holy. So I hesitate to share these reflection on my fast this week but will do so anyway.
As a nearly life-long type 1 diabetic, fasting from food has been a challenge for me and nearly always caused more physical issues than spiritual blessings. So this week, as part of a challenge I issued to my church, I decided to fast from television (including the streaming video services to which I subscribe).
Fasting intrudes Fasting disrupts our normal patterns and practices. It interrupts the flow of the daily. It jars us from our habits. And it reminds us that God intrudes. The Incarnation and the Resurrection – intrusions into the natural order and the flow of history. If God works in such a way at the macro level, fasting opens the way for God to work at the micro level of our lives and contexts.
Fasting reminds us that we are creatures of appetite Fasting from television and video, for instance, does not produce physical hunger. But when we fast or abstain from anything the hunger for it is more obvious because it is unfulfilled. By not feeding the hunger or longing we may grasp a deeper sense of the hungers God wants to fill — and the need to hunger above all things after the Giver of all things.
To fast is to choose We are creatures of habits and hungers – but need they control us? Are we not more than hungers? More than habits? To choose to not satisfy them reminds us of the power of human freedom and choice given us by God. And the need we have for God’s power and love to shape our choices and to empower and guide our wills.
This week I have had several breakthroughs in answer to prayer. Some offered a way forward when none seemed apparent. Others changed my perspective on some question whose answer I was sure I knew. Fasting has been a part of this journey and will be again.