I decided yesterday that I would fast today. And I did. I drank water, but ate nothing.
There were several reasons for this. First, fasting strengthens the will. Second, it clears the mind. I wanted to have some time to really focus on God’s Word, and besides, it’s a good idea to fast once in a while.
But just because I was fasting, I realized that I couldn’t get out of every responsibility I had that day. I served breakfast to my daughter (thankfully, it was leftover frozen pancakes and waffles, so I didn’t have to actually cook). I made beds, picked up things that were laying around, cleaned the hen house and collected the eggs, etc. I showered and minded the children for a while. When my husband came back from the gym around noon, he took the kids to the playground for an hour or so, and I prepared lunch for them. Then I left home, telling my husband I didn’t know when I would be back.
The first thing I did was to go to a nature park. It has a couple miles of trails with benches scattered along some of them. It is shady and cool with all the trees, so it was the perfect place to be alone in nature with God–the best I can find in this area, anyway.
I had brought my Bible, my iPod (for its Bible program), a devotional-like book that I’m reading, a notebook, and my prayer journal. I spent some time praying, reading, and in Bible study. I was probably there a couple of hours–I didn’t keep track of time. It was a real blessing–away from the computer, away from the demands of the home, alone with God.
When I finished, I went shopping. Yes, even though it was late afternoon and I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I went shopping. They say you should never shop on an empty stomach, but I did it anyway. And I realized that the practice of saying no to food throughout the day as I worked in the kitchen today had strengthened my will to the point that I was able to say no not only to buying something to eat right there, but to also not buy unnecessary items. I guess that the habit of only buying what’s on my list unless I know for sure that we will need it within the next week paid off. That, and having a budget. (If you don’t have a budget, you should!)
But there was a side benefit to this experience. I learned a little something about the power of the will. As I was walking through the bulk section, buying lentils and cashews and such, I noticed a bin of what I think were probably miniature chocolate chip cookies. I say probably, because I didn’t look at them long enough to be sure. I knew that if I studied them or debated about them, I would be tempted to buy them. So instead I turned away and focused on writing the bin number on the tag for the bag of lentils.
As I went through the store, each time I was tempted to buy some snack-like item to eat, I would turn away quickly and focus on what I needed to get for the family for the week. I had resolved to fast the entire day, and I didn’t want to have the regret of eating something near the end. This resolve helped me stay focused on my goal and the task at hand.
And at this moment, it is a little after 9:00 pm, and I still haven’t eaten anything. I have drunk plenty of water, and shortly I will go to bed. I have succeeded in my goal!
But the principle I learned today will be valuable in the future. To resist temptation, I must refuse to ponder on it. If I am tempted to spend time on the computer when I really should be folding laundry and fixing lunch, I need to resist the temptation and go start on the laundry.
So many times in the past, when I was tempted to do something that I shouldn’t do, I would think about it, dwell on how much I wanted to do it, and before I knew it, I was doing it. Now I know that if I resist the first temptation, the second one will be weaker and weaker until the devil will have to come up with another temptation altogether, because that one will have lost its appeal.
But through it all, I know that I cannot do this without God. Sure, there are times I can resist temptation on my own, to a point. But the Christian life isn’t about just not falling into sin. It’s not just about keeping the commandments. The rich young ruler did that. And he still had a nameless longing that he didn’t know how to fill. The Christian life is about putting God in first place in my life and developing a relationship with Him. As I do that, He will empower me to make the right choices. And I will be motivated to do the right things, not just because I have to or because they are the right things to do, but because I love God.
Oh Lord, You know how weak I am. Please take my will, refine and ennoble it, and give it back to me. Give me a tender heart, open to the voice of Your Holy Spirit. Help me to be so sensitive to Your voice that the lightest whisper of Jesus will move my soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.