When you fast…
We’ve been talking about spiritual practices for a couple of weeks, and we’ll continue through Lent. What is a spiritual practice? It’s something like prayer, seeking God’s will, fasting, and worship. It’s something we do intentionally to give us space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. If that sounds too spiritual for you, or too religious, think of the spiritual practices this way: they are ways of helping us to be human. And if that’s too airy-fairy for you, let’s put it this way: spiritual practices help us to get to age 70 or 50 or 30 without succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness.
Today, we’re talking about fasting.
I can still hear my mother’s voice in my boyhood’s ear: ‘Finish what’s on your plate. There’s children starving in Africa.’
I used to wonder what did finishing my food have to do with children in Africa? I was meant to be grateful that I had food to eat, rather than taking it for granted. But the main thing it’s given me is something else: a compulsion that I still have to eat everything that’s put before me.
Jesus said, ‘Whenever you fast…’ I’m not so good at fasting. We live in a strange time; a time with plenty of food, in which young women—and increasingly, young men—are in danger of succumbing to anorexia. A time when the most readily recognised sign in the world is not the Christian cross but MacDonald’s arches. A time in which food is dumped in order to keep prices high. A time that knows all about dieting, but nothing about fasting.
Fasting: let’s be clear. Biblical fasting is about seeking God’s will in a particular situation, or seeking a sense of God’s grace and peace. Continue reading