As part of a call to prayer that our faith community is involved in, I am fasting this week. This means that I give something up (usually food) for a set time for a spiritual purpose. Fasting and prayer are ancient spiritual practices, often done in tandem, but their link is not always understood. Basically, I see it as two sides of the same discipline: fasting is saying no to myself and praying is saying yes to Jesus. One is meant to fuel the other.
A few years ago I heard somewhere that a square of dark chocolate a day is good for you, so I thought I would buy some and have it on hand so that I could nibble on a piece now and then. I also discovered the yumminess of Chai tea a few years ago, so now it seemed natural to have a piece of chocolate with my tea. While doing schoolwork or working on a writing project, I go through numerous cups of tea a day, and it became a habit that after I made my cup of tea, I would reach in the cupboard for the chocolate. What had begun as an occasional treat soon became a regular habit that I did without thinking. Feeling a bit hungry? Grab some chocolate! Need an energy boost? Grab some chocolate! Finished with your meal? Grab some chocolate! And then it came time for a fast. I decided to say no to all sweets in general and also late night snacking (I am notorious for not eating meals and snacking my way through life). The habits were not amused. They let me know that it would be better if we went back to the old way! They didn't appreciate being interrupted and put on hold. But my mind and my body and my spirit breathed in deeply and appreciated the open space.
So much of our lives are filled with actions that we do automatically. What started out as something we had to think about has now become ingrained in many cases. This can either work for us or against us. When I leave my house, I automatically put on my coat, then my boots, check for my gloves, put my phone in my purse, and lock the door. I usually don't have to think about it much. I also try to rise in the morning and fall asleep with thanksgiving and gratitude on my lips. I miss these things when I don't do them, and that's good! But if do something on an impulse (I think I'll put off my homework and go out with friends instead), it can easily become a habit. It might be good to evaluate where this might lead and see if it is indeed serving us or we are serving it.
Fasting is a great way of breaking out of the everyday habits we have accumulated over the months and years and checking to see whether they are hampering our spirits, weighing us down, or helping us say yes to Jesus. Let my YES continue to get bigger and bigger!
I took a photo of this piece of chocolate and then put it back in the cupboard. I will eat it next week...maybe.