Original Posting At http://revmhj.com/blog//lent-2018-day-2
One of my closest friends practices fasting better than anyone I’ve ever met. Nearly every year during Lent, he fasts from food for six days in a row, eats on the Sabbath, and begins again the following day. I recently asked him to write about this practice, but being more Scripturally and spiritually attuned than I am, he begged off. Still, feeling there was value in others being able to read about this practice and with the possibility that others might even try to fast for a day for the first time in their lives, I convinced him to do it anonymously on my blog. He’s going to keep a sort of diary each day and I’m going to share it here. I hope you find my friend’s journey exciting and convicting.
Thursday, February 15, 2018 Day 2 of Lent
I began experimenting with fasting when I was in seminary. I cannot remember what it was exactly that inspired me to try this, but I do know that studies of the spiritual disciplines and the rhythms of the church calendar year really resonated with me and if they were not the immediate cause of my entry into fasting, they were what kept me in it. The first fasts I would do were 24 hour fasts. Usually, I would try to time these so that they ended on Wednesday afternoon at the little communion service that was held on campus. In doing this, I was able to break my fast with Holy Communion, a practice that not only increased my appreciation for fasting, but also the sacraments. Eventually, I moved into longer periods of fasting, and one year I learned of a seminary friend who had fasted throughout Lent the year before. I was very intrigued. How did this work? What was it like? It’s interesting because he didn’t want to talk too much about it apart from giving some advice as to the mechanics of his fasting. Later on, when I went through the Lenten fast myself, I discovered that there is an element to the fast that is intensely personal. It is intimate. I tried blogging on my first extended fasting experience, but had to quit part of the way through because it did not feel appropriate. That may seem strange. In St. Matthew’s gospel, Jesus instructs his followers that they ought not to make a show of their fasting. He tells us that what is done in secret, the Father will reward in secret. I struggle with the public aspect of my fasting. As a pastor and leader of a congregation, I think it is important for me to set an example. While I do not go into all the details of my fasting, unless I am asked by people individually, I do want my congregation to know that I fast quite a bit during Lent (and also Advent to some extent). I have found that this public example has encouraged or spurred on folks in my congregation to try fasting themselves. I am blessed to hear stories from people who are taking part in 24 hour fasts, or abstaining from certain foods. I have heard from one person who has taken to doing the Lenten fast herself. Just yesterday, on Ash Wednesday, a parishioner told me of how he apologized to a coworker for something he had said the day before. There were others in the lunch room who heard the apology. They also noticed that he was fasting that day, and so questions came. They were genuine questions about fasting and faith.
Yesterday, I was talking with my friend, Matthew, and he encouraged me to write a bit about my fasting experience this Lent. I do keep a prayer journal, but I have not written much on my blog about it because it does not feel right. I worry that it would be for the wrong reasons. So Matthew offered to post my thoughts on his blog as written by “anonymous.” I think I may try that.
I thought that in this first post I should not only give you a brief background into my fasting, but also share the ground rules I use in my Lenten fasting. It is a juice fast. I drink water and juice for the first part of my fast. Eventually, I phase in chocolate milk. I discovered that my body will need the protein or I get lightheaded and on the verge of passing out. Also, Lenten fasts do not count Sundays, which is why Lent is actually 46 days prior to Easter. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and not an appropriate day to fast. My Sabbath is on Monday, however, and since I want the whole day to rest and eat with my family, I fast on Sunday, but on Mondays I do eat. Finally, I replace my meals with prayer time, and I have found “The Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle to be incredibly helpful to pray from. My usual routine, then, is to pray in the morning from the Book of Common Prayer morning service, then pray at lunchtime, dinnertime, and bedtime from “The Divine Hours.”
I hope that by sharing this people will be challenged and encouraged to try this ancient spiritual discipline. And I pray that in your fasting you will find God working on you in challenging, powerful, and grace filled ways.