Our church recently declared a fast for ten days before Good Friday. It is the first church-wide fast at The Church at BattleCreek that Johnny and I have not participated in, food-wise. Because I was swamped with Easter stuff, I begged Johnny to let us fast from media instead. I gave up Facebook, personal email, video & computer games, television, and the internet. Basically, I used media for work when I had to and allowed myself music. My reasoning was that if we were to use the "extra time" from fasting for prayer & meditation, then giving up media would create time for me. Participating in the Daniel fast would not.
Fasting is always a big task at our house. If we are going to change our food habits, it makes more work for me: groceries, planning, etc. Good food is one of the things that gets sacrificed quickly when we are busy, and as busy as I was in March, I wanted the freedom to order pizza and stop at McDonald's. There was no way that I would have time "otherwise devoted to eating" on a Daniel fast. I'd have to figure out how to get enough calories in us to not faint using fruits and veggies. Granted, I've done it before, but there is a cost.
Here's what I discovered: I missed out. Johnny and I almost instincitively ate less during the fast. It was almost funny. I even found myself not stopping at Starbucks, not choosing the trail mix with chocolate, etc. because the fast was going on. I can live without media, and it was good for me to make that stand during the Daniel fast; it has given me some freedom & reestablished some priorities.
But that's just the point...I can live without media. I can't live without food. A fast takes away from me something that I actually do need to physically survive. I take issue with the notion that we are freeing up time to pray. The discipline of fasting is really just denying yourself food. And I think that fasting shares something with the tithe: there are no baby steps. You can't give 3% and work up to 10%. Fasting from media is not fasting. It was good and fine, but it is not the same discipline. In giving up food, you declare to God and the spiritual world, "My Lord is more to me than food." If He is only more to me than television, then my God is too small.
For His own reasons, God has endowed power in that very act. It is not because we spend more time in prayer that fasting is powerful; fasting is powerful because we fast. Fasting, like tithing, is one simple thing. There are no baby steps to get there; you either do it or you don't. And like prayer, another spiritual discipline, we don't necessarily understand why. Why tell God, who knows everything, what you need or that He is great? Because it changes us. So why give up food just to declare God is important to you? Because the act of doing it changes us.
Looking back, I still don't know if I could have participated in the Daniel fast and done the work to get the Preschool Ministry ready for Easter. But I know that in the future, if I am faced with a similar choice, I will try to find some way to fast--to give up food--because my God is worthy of my sacrifice.