July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Fast and Slow

"My soul thirsts for ______." What would you put in that blank? Recognition? Fame? Power? Wealth? Sympathy? Family? Something else? The Psalmist filled that blank with "God" (see Psalm 42:2). Not surprising, but oh so wise. All else quickly fades and loses its ability to satisfy. God alone fully and finally satisfies the deep thirst of our souls. Our problem is we constantly drink from other fountains and never allow our thirst to drive us to the sole source that satisfies. So how shall we to develop a thirst for God? The answer is quite simple - but the practice is patently unsavory; we need to fast.

The spiritual discipline of fasting is, by and large, lost to western Christianity. I believe this to be a function of the unprecedented affluence we enjoy in the U.S. In our affluence the discipline of fasting requires a far greater sacrifice than the giving of money. We are not accustomed to "denying ourselves" anything. Certainly not on purpose! Yet in the practice of fasting we discover a way to break the sensual thrall of our lives and allow the all-sufficient and all-satisfying grace of God to enter.

"The disciplines of abstinence are designed to weaken or break the power of life involvements that press against our involvement in the kingdom of God." (Dallas Willard, Renovations of the Heart) Fasting reveals the things that control us and in so doing reveal the things that we have set up as "false gods" in our lives.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:12, offers a powerful premise for our consideration. "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything." What enslaves you? Food? Recreation? Your cell phone? The internet? Perhaps a fast from that which enslaves/controls you is in order. Perhaps you will discover there is a deeper, more urgent thirst you have simply covered with temporary things.

Fill in the blank, "My soul thirsts for _____."

The Habit of Perfection
Geral Manly Hopkins

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shelled, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

1 comment:

Carol L. Douglas said...

Oddly enough, I've been trying to fast during the day for the last two weeks. It's actually really hard, gives me a splitting headache. I am in awe of the Muslims who succeed for the whole of Ramadan.