Fasting as a Means of Grace

I have a couple people in my church with whom I’m working through the beginning exploration of the candidacy process, and with one of them, we are up to the section of the “purple book” that talks about means of grace. And we began an honest conversation about fasting.

I’m not a good person to talk about fasting.

Perhaps this is obvious just by looking at me (I hope it’s not *that* obvious!), but food itself is an enjoyable and nearly– sometimes actually– sacred thing for me. I’m not totally clear, though, how fasting cultivates spiritual discipline, how it is a means of grace.

I get the theory. I understand on an intellectual level how fasting from food might cultivate a deeper appreciation of our blessings, might give us time we would have spent eating to spend in prayer, or how maybe the food I would have eaten could be given to someone else. I don’t totally understand how it would make me more aware of God, but I get that it’s the hope.

The same I could say about fasting from anything– facebook or chocolate or the types of things that people “give up” for Lent. How does it make us holy and not holier-than-thou? I’m not talking about refraining from things like gossip or yelling, but milder things like sugar or protein (and no, I;m not going to even touch fasting’s cousin abstinence, but my questions are theĀ  same). If something is not wrong or evil, but might even (as in the case of food) be good and life-giving and in some contexts holy itself (food in communion, connection–even virtual–to our sisters and brothers), how does the absence of that thing bring a greater awareness of holiness?

I’ve fasted for a day. I didn’t feel holy; I felt cranky, shaky, and frankly a little resentful. I’ve taken a technology fast. I didn’t feel closer to God; I felt further from some other folks and closer to nature in some moments. I’ve given up specific foods for Lent, or more dramatically for pregnancy, and felt it was mostly a nuisance.

I’m not trying to be flip or snarky here; I am honestly seeking advice and input from people who find fasting from something to be a spiritual discipline or a means of grace, and maybe some ideas I might share with my brothers on the journey of ministry inquiry as we discuss these things. Your thoughts are most appreciated!


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