I looked at my child’s Rice Krispie square sitting on the counter and its shiny blue packaging beckoned me. Snap, Crackle and Pop were calling out to be enjoyed, and I seriously debated whether or not my son would notice if it was gone in the morning. Much to the chagrin of Snap, Crackle and Pop, I didn’t eat it, and I silently congratulated my self-control while dreaming of the day the 40 day sugar fast would be over and I could celebrate with an ice cream cone.
But is that really what a fast is about? Learning to be more self-controlled? Losing weight? Not stealing from my child’s sugar stash? Ignoring the call of cartoon characters? Probably not.
It’s about learning to recognize the God-hunger within me and not satiating it with snacks. Turning to the Bread of Life rather than the last hot dog bun on the counter, about drinking the Living Water rather than the sugar water the commercial says is healthy.
But it’s also more than that. Sometimes it can feel a bit like manipulating God. Like “I’ll give you sugar but I’m looking for something too”. Day after day I seek him out; I think I’m keen to know his ways. I ask him for decisions that would make my life easier and act eager for God to come near.
But then I get frustrated.
“Why have I fasted,” I’ve said, “and you haven’t seen it? Why haven’t you noticed my sacrifice over here?”
But on the days of my fasting, I have done as I pleased, and treated my family and my world poorly. The day starts with quarrelling and ends in frustration. I forget my God.
I hear God say to me “you can’t fast like this and expect me to listen to you. This is NOT what fasting is all about – this self-righteous sugar abstaining, this bowing of the head so you can sneak in anything not-sugar. Is this what YOU call a fast?”
What is the purpose of fasting?
To loose the chains of injustice in the way I treat my family, injustice in the way my textiles are made, injustice in the spraying of chemicals on banana farmers.
To untie the cords of the yoke of debt for my family by choosing to live within our means rather than buying excess.
To set the oppressed free by following the specific instructions God has given me.
Isn’t it to share my food with the hungry, maybe by sacrificing money to sponsor a child?
Isn’t it to provide the refugee with shelter and when someone lacks basic needs to find a way to provide it?
Isn’t it to turn my face toward my family and treat them with mercy?
Fasting is not a solo event. Yes, it is meant to change you from the inside, from the hungriest parts of your soul, to fill you up with the righteousness that comes flowing from God himself, but then it is meant for you to be filled so full that you cannot help but living differently, living out a sense of satiety in God rather than a sense of lack.
Then, my friend, oh then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing, it’s gonna come. All will see the righteousness of God in front of you, and the glory of the Lord protecting you from behind.
Then, my friend, then you will call and HE WILL ANSWER.
You will cry for help and he will say: HERE AM I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring who waters never fail.
I want to be called “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of the Home”
May it be so.
(PS This post is significantly ripped off from Isaiah 58. Read it, and may God speak to you too…)