[Word count: 565. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
Welcome to January. ‘Tis the season for loose commitments to new resolutions, changes in federal and state laws, and Christian churches going on fasts. I’ve got no problem with the former, but this guy right here will have nothing to do with fasting.
When I was in music ministry, we would traditionally fast for 2-3 weeks at the start of every year. But we had options. We could maybe give up specific meals, or do the Daniel fast (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with limited seasonings and cooking processes), or the extreme option of drinking water only for a period of time. Some were lenient where others were extra diligent, but we all did something.
The following year, something different happened. After praying, the pastor felt the entire church needed to fast. As previous, the body at large was given options. Those in music ministry, however, were told that a Daniel fast was mandatory.
Mandatory? Objection, your honor.
“Give me all your lovin’ or I will kill you
Put one through your head
Give me all your lovin’ or I will kill you
And cry when you’re dead.” —Macy Gray
My therapist friend likes to say “love requires choice.” If you put a gun to my head and order me to say “I love you,” you don’t get love. You get words. If the intention isn’t there, words and even actions become hollow, flaccid, dead.
I forget to eat often, so fasting isn’t a fundamental problem. Mandates are. This Daniel fast didn’t feel right for me. But what I took from the announcement was this: “If you are a part of leadership in this ministry, you should want to fast. If you don’t want to fast, then maybe you don’t belong in this ministry.”
What I felt was the fear of being ostracized from my group. This group was my community… and everything to me, but the mandate didn’t seem healthy. My indignation at this arm-twist was immediate and hot to the touch. If this fast was for God, wouldn’t he know my heart wasn’t in it at all? “It doesn’t matter how you feel. Do it anyway.” I felt violated. My trust in, regard for, and bond with this group started to break down.
Nonetheless, I bowed to the pressure. I did just what they told me, for as long as they wanted. But they couldn’t mandate the posture of my heart. I sauteed my veggie meals with so much resentment, you could taste the rancor more than the garlic.
Maybe the fast accomplished what the pastor expected, maybe not. But I don’t think God was pleased by my offering. It no longer mattered whether my heart was aimed at Christ, it had become about obedience to the leaders in my organization. It was a religious exercise that I didn’t feel conviction about either way. It was also the last one I ever did.
Many friends in top-of-the-year consecration denied themselves meats, carbs, sugars, et cetera. This is all in order to hear God more clearly. But it didn’t work so well for me. It helped break my heart and separate me from a ministry.
The Bible hasn’t changed what it says about fasting, but I don’t expect to do it anymore. Not if it’s about control and ceremonial deprivation without a perceptible benefit. I reached my limit. No more for me, thanks.