Lenten Devotional // Day 2

Thursday, March 3
FASTING by Brittany Radford

Isaiah 58:6-12
Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lordwill answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
    if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,
    and your gloom will be like the noon.
The Lord will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.

Reflection 
Growing up in the Pentecostal and Baptist church, sprinkled with meetings with Jehovah Witnesses,’ made me side eye fasting. This notion that I am supposed to abstain from food to better connect with God seemed a bit extreme. Why would God want me to starve, especially if I am already living in poverty and facing discrimination? Over the years, my understanding of fasting has evolved (thank God for the Holy Spirit). As a result, I have made several attempts to fast throughout my 33 years of life. You never really realize how much you consume or miss things until you can’t have them. 

In 2013, I moved to Mississippi which I define as my “valley experience”, because southern living is quite different from the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. But in all seriousness, Starkville is where I met and experienced God in a radical way that has forever changed how I view faith, Christianity, prayer, injustice, and good ole fasting. I recall, when I first moved to Mississippi I fasted from social media because I spent countless hours comparing and envying other people's lives. So I deactivated all my accounts, deleted all the apps, and placed the Bible app as my homescreen. Many people thought I was weird but I knew I needed to be more intentional with my faith...trust the process people! This was one of many steps, where I slowly deconstructed the misconceptions that I had about fasting. 

In 2015, I started attending a UMC church in which I learned about Lent. This time, I felt a little more comfortable with spending 40 days praying, serving, and fasting. Food has never really been a big part of my life, so I decided that I would abstain from music, except when I attended church. I am like a sponge, so whatever I listen to or watch stays with me. However, I did not take into consideration that many of my friends listen to music in their cars. The moment I entered their cars I would switch off the radio and inform them that I was fasting and that I was not going to let them cause me to stumble. In reading today’s scripture, Isaiah 58:6-12, I realize I had it all wrong. Ultimately, I made a spectacle of fasting. I wanted people to see and know that I was being a “good Christian”...thank God for grace.

Fast forward to 2018, literally the hardest period of my life. I was juggling a masters and doctoral program, a full-time job, and serving heavily on campus and at my church. To make matters worse, my husband asked for a divorce, he stated “he was done.” If you ever had a bowl or mug slip out of your hand and hit the ground, you can understand how I felt. I literally define this season as my Job experience. Here I was thinking I had done everything right to honor Christ with my life. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I cried, I prayed, I questioned God, and I cried some more. Then I got up and made a conscious decision that I would fast from people to see where God was leading me. If you ever met me you know that I love to talk, laugh, and be around tons of people. But something in me said pause B…remove all the noise, all the opinions, all the people, and cling to God. This time around, when people inquired why I couldn’t hang out I just politely shared that I wanted to spend more time with God and serving. For 60 days, I read scripture, prayed fervently, cried often, attended church, journaled, mentored college students, took antidepressants, and listened to Elevation Worship song, “Give me Faith” on repeat. After two months of hibernation, I resurrected with a strength and resolve that I have never experienced before. I signed the divorce decree, finished writing my thesis, began the journey to forgive my ex husband and packed for my move to St. Louis.  

I use these examples from my life to illustrate that fasting is a spiritual practice that takes time, grace, self awareness, and love. As we see in the scripture, naturally as humans we feel we need to prove that we are “good enough” but with God we no longer have to perform. God is not asking the Israelites to go on a hunger strike but rather to “act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God'' (Micah 6:8). Both of these scriptures offer us the opportunity to reimagine fasting as a matter of the heart in which we intentionally invite God into our everyday realities to show us a radical love that is unlike anything we have ever received. If I can offer you two specific tips during this lenten season, it is to practice small steps that welcome humility and take some time to create a short checklist to make sure you are bringing the right attitude and posture to communing with God.

Question for Contemplation
  • What feelings come to mind when you think about fasting?  
  • What has been your experience with fasting (no right or wrong answer)?
  • How has your attitude or posture towards fasting evolved over the years?  
  • How can you better understand or incorporate fasting as a spiritual practice into your daily life?

Prayer
Hey God,
Thank you for revealing the conditions of our heart. When we fast give us the right posture and attitude because naturally we want to make everything about us. Teach us to examine our hearts and give us fresh eyes to see the injustices committed against others. Furthermore, strengthen us with the drive to use our hands, resources, and times to be an ally for others, in which you get all the honor and praise. Thank you God for sending your Holy Spirit as a compass for how to live out our faith in a true and radical way. We love you and need you. We ask these things in your Holy name. Amen.

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