The Lenten fast is coming to a close and soon I will have my chocolate and iced coffee, and most importantly BREAD. I hold Lent very high because I see it as a holy and blessed wilderness opportunity. Remember in the scriptures that Jesus did not start His ministry until after His forty days in the wilderness when the enemy tempted him. This year I did the Daniel Fast, abstaining from refined sugar, chocolate, coffee, and caffeine, anything from an animal, refined sugar, yeast, and anything that “God did not make” (e.g. preservatives, man made chemicals, etc).
So here are my last little tid-bits about the journey of this month and a half and how it has affected me:
Patience and Listening
In other parts of the world, such as France, Italy, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, etc., it usually takes HOURS to eat a meal. But here in my Yankee Midwest, we have half hour lunches, right? And that includes taking the time to heat up the Lean Cuisine macaroni bowl. I, personally, can eat my lunch in 5–10 minutes without even trying. WHAT?!? There is something wrong here. But look at our lives—look at how, when, and where we eat. How many of us actually sit with a community every day for every meal? How many of us cook everything from scratch instead of using quick fixes? How often do you eat a meal in front of the TV, computer, or while working? We are a culture of seeking the biggest, not the best, and the fastest, not the most enjoyable. And guess where allllllll of this transcends to … YEP, our relationship with God.
Ya know, I started this fast because my relationship with my King royally sucked. I didn’t listen, I didn’t come to Him except to complain or voice my anger, I didn’t thank Him for all things he continually gives me, and I never made time for Him. I was impatient, never wanting to live in the present, but instead was always worrying about tomorrow and wishing I could change yesterday. Patience and listening are very hard skills to obtain and work through. I am a born “Mary,” always running around instead of sitting at My Lord’s feet. I am certainly not anywhere near where I want/need to be, but in the wilderness I learned that even if I can’t hear or feel Him, He’s there and I need to wait. Little-by-little, day-by-day, I grow up, listen for Him (even if just thirty seconds) and continually remind myself of His goodness above my frustration.
From my favorite Psalm: “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
The thing about the Daniel Fast is that it’s not how much you eat, but WHAT you eat (or don’t eat rather), which made me happy because I eat a lot. But guess what happens when you eat a LOT of fresh fruits and veggies … mmhmm. After I got over that, I naturally started eating a lot less. I started to record what I was eating and found I was only consuming 1600 calories a day or less! (Very different from my normal 2500 calories or more …) But it wasn’t something that I really tried to do. It came natural when I changed foods because my body adapted to what I was in taking. I found that as I continued eating the same foods I needed less of them at a time. Most days I can’t finish my one-half cup of oatmeal! I am more invested and aware of every meal.
So, portion size with God? We should be Super-Sizing our God portion, right? Well what happens when you binge on a super-sized bunch of crap? I prefer to not regurgitate Jesus, thank you. Okay, so this is a disgusting example but think about it: whenever we tend to surround ourselves with Christianity we tend to become complacent and shallow. We only listen to Christian music and only read Christian books and we spend all of our time around other Christians—what happens? It loses meaning and we forget our purpose, direction, and we forget the lost. We forget God’s greatness because He becomes so easy to access.
But let me ask all of you this—how many hours, minutes, seconds a day do you spend with the Lord, just you and Him? Martin Luther said that he HAD to start every day spending at least two hours of intimate alone time with God or the day just wouldn’t work. In Genesis 14, Abram meets Melchizadek and it says that he gave the King a tenth of everything: money, gold, property … time? Last summer I attempted to give God a tenth of time; two-and-a-half hours a day. I didn’t have school or a job so I thought it would be easy—it didn’t happen once. It’s hard. But remember what I said about the way my body adapted? I am consuming less but it’s better for my body, sustains me longer, and means more to me. I don’t want to saturate myself with meaningless Christianity—I want to portion out intimate quality time with Him.
Thankfulness and Appreciation
Boy o boy am I thankful for food now. I mean, any one who knows me knows that I always try to eat healthy, but this is way different. I appreciate food now—very different mind set. I’ve learned to savor things, especially food, and realize their value. I can’t handle zebra cakes anymore. I want hand made scones, artisan chocolates—food with intention, skill, craft and devotion. Food made by people who love to make food for people who love to eat food—that’s what I want. And yes, it’s more pricy, but go back to portion again: I’d rather have a little bit of something great than over consuming something that doesn’t mean anything. Some of you may think “How on earth can you even think about this when there is a majority in the world who have NOTHING to eat?!?!”
These two months God has slowly changed my heart to be thankful for everything He has given me. It’s amazing how frustrating it is to have Him provide for me. Every need is met. It’s very annoying. Every NEED is met. And nothing more … I managed to save up $250 and fifty dollars and I was SO excited … but then my car needed work and guess how much it cost to fix it? I never have $50 in my pocket, but my needs are ALWAYS met.
I have been so stubborn and mad and upset about all the things that I want and don’t have and can’t have and will maybe never have, that I constantly, daily, and hourly forget how unbelievably wonderful all the things I DO have are.
I don’t know why I have the opportunity to overeat at every meal when others will be thankful if they get to eat once this week. I don’t know. I don’t have that answer. But I do know that God has giving me this tremendous gift and opportunity to enjoy food around me, and it’s up to me to be thankful for what I have instead of greedy because of its easy access.
If you have made it this far I applaud you, but now onto justice … A big part of this fast was that I couldn’t eat anything that “God did not make.” Do you have any idea how hard that is? I cannot eat 90 percent of food at Meijer. So what does that say about the food that Americans eat, that we eat—that YOU eat!
I could go forever on this topic, but quite honestly there are other people who have told the story far better than I could, so if you want to learn more (and I highly suggest you do—it’s very interesting and powerful!). Check out a sermon from my church’s youth group: listen to “The Jerusalem Council: Food [02/11/09]. Trust me, it’s awesome.
Intimacy is more than being physically close. Yes, it helps, but that not what it is and it’s not what it’s dependent upon. Intimacy is letting your guard down, being honest, being vulnerable, admitting your hurt and shame. It’s an ultimate level of trust, and I had completely lost my trust in God. I knew I needed this. Quite frankly, I am still not there, but there is this small strand that I am hanging onto with both hands and I don’t intend to let go anytime soon. This is transformation.
I firmly believe that the physical affects the spiritual and vice versa. Look at how many times in scripture where food has played a significant role in what God was trying work in us and teach us. If my physical state is not where it should and could be, it can keep me from something God wants to reveal to me. And it’s not just overeating—if I start obsessing over food I shouldn’t eat or focus on just lost weight it’s just as bad, if not worse. The focus is away from God.
I leave you with this: in my life, in my wilderness, I needed to do this with food. What is your wilderness and are you ready to camp out there?
Today He shared with us His Body and His Blood so that we can live life abundantly. Tomorrow the curtain was ripped so that God and His glory could dwell within us. On Sunday, the tomb will be empty; He defeated death for us so that we could live with the King forever. Hallelujah.
Grace and peace.