I have to admit … I am often a slave … a slave to my wants. My biggest “want” is to feel like I’m in control of the stuff of my life. With a sense of control, I feel safer, more able to navigate my day. But, in reality I don’t have a lot of control, and it isn’t likely I can win more control by trying to grasp it! Maybe that’s why I found fasting so challenging. Fasting is a practice of surrender … of letting go … of denying myself of what I want for what could be better for me. Fasting is about focusing on Jesus to discover what truly nourishes the soul.
Jesus told his disciples in the gospels, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” He also gives instructions in Matthew 6:16-18 on how to fast. Fasting is an act of self-denial … and through self-denial, we begin to be more aware of what controls us.
I decided to fast this past year. Initially I had a hard time choosing what my fast would be, but I knew I was beginning to struggle with the difference between what I “needed” versus what I “wanted” in several areas of my life, mostly because I was not taking the time to assess what was most important. It’s so easy to slip into “ruts” when that begins to happen and my tendency is to escape (like watching my favorite TV show). You might ask how control was a factor in watching a favorite TV show on a regular basis? For me, when I did what I “wanted” (escape), I ignored what I “needed” (exercise, or time to read something for personal growth, or relationship building with a friend or family member).
My decision to fast from my favorite weekend show helped me discover how fidgety I became when I was not escaping into that fun fantasy for an hour. I became more aware of my surroundings, and learned to ask Jesus how he would encourage me to spend that same hour in a way that nourished my soul. In the process, I re-discovered engaging in faith art journaling – expressing what is in my heart to the Lord through paper, paint and pen. Personal growth has been just one outcome. I am participating in a community also engaged in faith art journaling, and growing relationships as well. I have given up something I thought I enjoyed, but was quickly over and gave me nothing to show for the time I spent, to something with much greater depth of meaning, and with lasting results. – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist