God has a funny sense of humor.
For the last two years, after exploring various health and spiritual practices, I began fasting weekly. For quite a few months I maintained a practice of fasting once a week solely on water and sometimes plain tea (without sugar). Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t fast to lose weight (nor do I promote it). There are various reasons why I started fasting, but to put it simply, I know that I often live by the desires of my flesh. I often rely on food for comfort and I have always had issues with temperance when it comes to food. I often eat until I’m completely stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. There is greediness to how I eat.
I woke up today and realized I had no excuse to avoid fasting. It’s a Sunday and I have absolutely no plans. There’s also no food, not a single Saltine cracker, in my apartment. If I want to maintain this practice I guess I should be building up some fasting stamina…or something like that.
The reason I say God has a sense of humor? Due to the fact that I’m not eating, I’m feeling on edge, to say the least. I’m also bored out of my mind and suspiciously the internet just stopped working at my apartment. It’s almost as if God is just laughing and saying, “You know how you would totally use Facebook and Pinterest all day to distract yourself from sitting with the uncomfortable feelings coming up, well that’s not gonna happen today. Sorry kid.”
Some may wonder why I fast if it’s so unpleasant. Some may even think of fasting as pure torture. When I tell people that I fast, they often exclaim they could never do it and offer explanations such as “I can’t function on low blood sugar” and “I like food way too much.” These are obviously excuses, I mean, are there really those among us who don’t like food? However, I understand the reasons for the excuses. Most of us are so incredibly coddled by our bodily and worldly pleasures that the idea of being without them can be downright terrifying. It’s scary because if you strip all those things away, what exactly is left? The answer is me, myself, and I or you, yourself, and you. That’s frightening because most people avoid truly facing themselves their entire lives through distractions like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, over-time at the office, becoming Target-holics, staying glued to their weekly episodes of “Mad Men,” alcohol, drugs, romantic relationships, Facebook, and all the other forms of numbing out.
When you fast, you feel everything completely amplified. You feel physical hunger which most of us don’t actually experience on a daily basis. Typically, we eat more out of routine, habit, boredom or for social reasons than because we’re truly hungry. Fasting also allows you to feel the depth and spectrum of your emotions, which can be very intense.
Despite the difficulty involved, I feel called to fast. Fasting is a spiritual practice because I have to rely on God instead of food. Instead of focusing on worldly hunger, I shift my focus onto my spiritual hunger. Fasting is not easy to do and it often brings up anger, frustration and feelings like I would kill someone if it meant I could eat an In-N-Out burger (and fries of course). However, I also feel a sense of accomplishment and inner peace by the end of the day when I resist the temptation to quit.
Lately, I haven’t been fasting. Most days that I’ve attempted, I’ve given in to the hunger mid-day. Today I’ve made a decision to stick it out! A friend of mine recently said, “People without discipline are worthless.” At first I thought he was being very harsh, but I now understand what he meant by it.
Discipline is an important part of life. Without discipline, we just wander aimlessly. Discipline makes us stronger, it helps us grow and it holds us accountable. Also, there are always benefits to that discipline that come after putting in the time. Discipline, whether it’s of a spiritual or physical nature, does not offer fuzzy good feelings in the moment. It’s a rare quality in a world that’s completely bombarded by instant gratification.
Fasting, for me, is an opportunity to rely on God for my strength. It’s an opportunity to realize that maintaining a steady practice will satisfy my needs. Discipline will bring me more joy and contentment in the long run, much more than chocolate cake ever could.
Madelaine Memmer is twenty-six years wise and a Los Angeles native with a true love for writing. She has a B.A. in Women’s Studies but due to her level of spiritual study, one might think she’s working on a degree in personal development. Wherever there’s a retreat, lecture, website or book on spiritual growth, you’ll find her around. When not gallivanting and traveling the world, you can find her in Los Angeles at yet another seminar or busy adding more countries to her ever-growing travel bucket list. Follow her travel and life adventures on her blog or her Facebook.