In January, I joined my church in a 21-day fast. I decided to try a "Daniel Fast"- eating only fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It was both a valuable and difficult experience for me (seems that often valuable and difficult like to stick together in life's lessons). Cutting out sugar was the most challenging aspect. I always need that sweet finish to every meal. It was good for me to go cold turkey on the sweet stuff. I realized that I didn't actually have to HAVE it- that chocolate ice-cream, that chocolate cake, that chocolate anything. :) I guess in that realization, I also learned that I had been a slave to those sugar fixes! Another thing that struck me during the fast was the amount of sugar and preservatives in so many things that we eat. I learned to read labels carefully, and felt so good eating real food all the time.
At that time, I also felt like I was wasting great amounts of time on facebook. Did I really want to look back on '09 and calculate that I spent more time reading people's updates than I did actually spending time with people...or playing my guitar...or working out...etc.? Letting go of facebook for a month was much easier than changing my eating habits. I didn't think about it too much, and that surprised me. But I did need to realize that I didn't HAVE to check facebook a number of times a day. Seems silly to say, but when you become enslaved to something, it feels like you do.
Though I did learn valuable lessons simply from the act of fasting, that wasn't the point. The point was to deepen my relationship with God and increase my dependency on Him. I often found myself so frustrated because I felt "stuck" on the surface level of the experience. I was fasting to spend more time with God, but I would still find numerous other things to do. I also found it so easy to get caught up in legalism over what I could and couldn't eat. A good friend pointed out to me, "Holiness isn't found in ritual". It's so true. Fasting alone doesn't guarantee intimacy in your relationship with God. Our pastor often reminded us, "Fasting without prayer = a diet". This is also true. The thing that I loved was sharing the experience with my church family. There such a deep spiritual desire clearly alive in the services. It was such an encouragement to know that everyone was in it together- a great way to experience the community of the church.
So I'm a work in progress. I'm grateful for what I learned, and I will try it again sometime. I know that I can experience so much more in fasting...but it needs to be combined with a much greater effort devoted to prayer.