Fast Dreams

Just had an interesting thought. Have you ever tried fasting from something that you don’t have? We hear about fasting from food or TV or shopping or video games, which tend to be things we have access to (too much access, in most cases). But what about those things we don’t have … but really wish we did have?

We all have dreams of “someday” when we will have certain possessions, jobs, relationships, status, etc. And we all, at some point or another, have spent way too much time wishing we had all that right now. Sometimes, our longing had a physical impact such as depression, over-spending, over-eating, or some other destructive manifestation. We made ourselves sick because we didn’t have something we wanted.

Fasting is a kind of mourning, a sorrow for an absence in our lives. We put something away from ourselves and then feel sad for not having it. The reason for doing this is because we seek something greater than what we give up; in the midst of grieving for what we willingly lose, we rejoice in what we resultantly gain. For those who follow Christ, fasting is a way to put off distractions and focus on the glory of God.

Some kinds of fasting are easier than others; when you have an object that you can physically separate yourself from, you can easily tell if you completed the fast. Did I eat during this fast time, yes or no? But fasting from a heart-longing is not so simple to measure, and it is far more slippery a stand to make. Yet I daresay it is a better fast.

The purpose of fasting is to remove a distraction in order to focus on something greater. Yet how many of us have made a food-fast only to spend the whole time dreaming of burgers or candy or soup? We become more distracted than before the fast. And even if we keep food from out lips, we have not kept it from our hearts; we have failed the fast as surely as if we had snuck a bag of chips. Therefore, I propose a fast of dreams.

What do you think about in your spare time? What do you wish you had? What do you worry about? Fast from those things. Each time that thought comes to your mind, every time you realize that you’re fretting again, turn your mind to God. In the same way that you declare, no food shall pass my lips, declare that no worry shall cross your mind. How do you get through a traditional fast? Use the same techniques to get through a heart-fast.

Jesus made it very clear that where you put the focus of your heart is where your ultimate treasure is. Whatever you spend the most mental energy on is what you value the most. If you spend most of your time _worrying_ about paying the bills, then money is your god. Note that I used the term _worrying_ about it. Taking prudent action is a fine thing; obsessing about how it will happen is not. Think about that.

We have the example of the elderly widow who put her last two pennies in the tithe box. She did not have money to spare. She did not have a savings account or a stipend. She probably didn’t have a full cupboard at home or the next month’s rent. Jesus went out of His way to mention that she gave out of her lack, not out of her abundance. Why would she do that? Why would she be so reckless and foolish with her money? I take my cue from Christ: she knew what in life has true value.

If that widow had held onto her last coins, she might have eaten for another day. She might have been able to invest it and earn some interest. She could have held onto it. But what was she actually holding on to? Money promises us security, a peace that no matter what happens, if you have enough money you can get through it. But how much is enough? All of us can probably think of a bill we needed to pay but couldn’t. We sweated and wrung our hands and had ulcers until somehow that bill got paid, and then we collapsed with relief for a whole day. That doesn’t sound very peaceful to me.

The widow had the same choice to make. She could put her faith in anything she wanted, and she chose to put her faith in God, not what humanity declared was sensible. She looked at the coins in her hand and weighed their value. How much were they worth? A biscuit? A cup of coffee? “Peace of mind?” That woman decided that she would only have peace of mind if she invested her heart in God. She demonstrated her faith by letting go of the physical representation of “security” in order to gain a deeper security. She believed that God would take care of her, no matter what.

So when you fast, why do you fast? Do you give something up to show how strong you are? How nothing is your master? If those are your reasons, you’re missing the point (and the benefit) of fasting. Fasting is all about declaring your weaknesses. It is a proclamation that you need something that you don’t have. It is a line in the sand that keeps you from the worse fate you were hurtling toward. Fasting is the heart’s scream of, “God!! I need You! And I will get rid of everything that keeps me from You!”

We think that the grass is greener somewhere else, so we fantasize about it and whine because we don’t have it. We worry ourselves sick and chew our fingers bloody. It is often money, but it could be a job, a spouse, a child, a pants size, a car, or so many other things. Yet when we say things like, “If only I had more money,” we put our faith, worship, and dependence in that thing. How many times has money (or whatever) let you down? Are you comforted by your bank balance or wondering how much longer it will last? Where is your heart?

And so, I propose that we attempt to fast from the things that we don’t have. Put aside those desires for a time and focus instead on God. Deliberately divorce yourself from that idea, that wish, even for just five minutes. For those five minutes, turn the affections of your heart to God. Instead of wailing over what you have lost, have deprived yourself of, rejoice in what you are gaining.

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