Isaiah 26:12 - ...you have done for us all our works.
Since April, I’ve been pushing towards change. Pushing might be too strong a word. I’ve been meandering towards change? I’ve been walking in the direction of change…sometimes? Maybe a combination of the three? Certainly, there have been instances when I feel I have been pushing, straining, fighting, sweating, striving, working for change. I can look back on times when I didn’t want to work out but did; times when choices were put before me and I chose well; times when I had to physically, emotionally and spiritually will myself to keep running even though everything in me was screaming to stop. Perhaps, my perspective is skewed by my most recent generalities, but it seems those times of pushing have been too few and far between. Mostly, it seems, I just like things to be easy. I like to do what I want to do, and if I happen to want to go for a run or eat a salad instead of a burger or stop beating myself down with horrible thoughts, great…and if I don’t, well, I’m just going to go with that.
Yesterday morning, I sorta got “done” with “just going with” whatever I feel like doing. It all sort of hit me at once. The thoughts had been stirring around for a while, and then, while I was fixing my Tervis Tumbler of ice water it was as if all of the thoughts and feelings had the volume turned up full blast, drowning out all others. My various internal dialogues (what I needed to do to get out the door, what was waiting for me at work, what was on the agenda for the week, what I loved about my weekend, how badly my kitchen floor needed sweeping) all faded into the background and were silenced. The thoughts became louder, the emotion more pronounced and I remember verbally saying “Oh God, somethings gotta give here!” as tears formed in my eyes.
That strange, frustrated little seed of a prayer birthed a real one, a true heart cry, a desperate prayer for God to move, to change me, to help me to be free of all the crap that’s been clinging to me all these years…and that I’ve been clinging to…to finally help me lose the vestiges of how I dealt with life before I believed there was a God and that He cared for me and sent His Son to die for me and had a plan for my life.
The answer was simple: “fast and pray”.
My heart’s response was: “amen”.
Anyone who knows me well knows, I don’t fast. I “can’t” fast. I get migraines and most of them are caused by dietary triggers. Also…um…I like eating, a lot…FYI. So, as a result, I’ve fasted maybe 3 times in my life. None of them really went well. Ok, maybe one did. But, I didn’t think of any of that when my heart agreed with what God was saying. I said “amen” and was at peace.
That was Awesome Thing #1.
Awesome Thing #2 was, I didn’t have a specific agenda. I wasn’t thinking of all the ways this fast would benefit me…all the prayers that might finally be answered. I wasn’t looking at this fast as a magic wand that would miraculously make everything all better so I could have the things I wanted. This fast was about getting all that stood between me and intimacy with God and real freedom out of the way. Period. What He might do from there, at what pace, in what specific order, didn’t even enter my mind.
Instead of listening to the blues station I’d been listening to regularly, I tuned into a worship station. When the first hunger pangs hit at 7:45a, my response was “I know this isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t supposed to be.” Then I listened to John Piper’s poem on the Book of Job…twice. My head started to ache a bit, so I drank some more water and put on some worship music. My lunch was a blog post by John Piper entitled “What Your Soul Eats”. The answer: “Hope”. I pondered on that a bit and also on what I feed my soul too much of: gluttony, vain imagination, the images and news and gossip I entertain and even seek out, music that speaks to what I see as lack in my life and makes me crave what I do not have even more.
"All is permissible but not all is profitable.”
My “dessert” was the first chapter of Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Discipline – A Glad Surrender”. This thought - ”the closer one comes to the center of things, the better able he is to observe the connections.” – made me think about a documentary on Jupiter I’d watched the night before. A scientist said, if Jupiter were not the type of planet it is and positioned where it is, earth would likely not exist or have existed long. Because of Jupiter’s size, position, mass, and gravitational force, it deflects meteors and asteroids from hitting earth and/or makes them much smaller when they do. To think that all we see when we look up into the night sky, and all we can’t see, was placed there with a purpose, a role to play in enabling and sustaining life on this small rock we call home, is just amazing. To think that I can look up and see millions upon millions of reasons to believe and love God more, while others see millions of reasons not to makes my heart ache.
By the time my lunch break was over, I was quite hungry and my headache was slightly more than a twinge, but I felt amazing. Invigorated. Refreshed. Excited, even. That was Awesome Thing #3.
Now, to Awesome Thing #4 – when I broke the fast just before leaving work, I told a friend, briefly, about the day. As I shared, it dawned on me…my singleness didn’t come up at all. Whenever I had fasted or set aside times to pray in earnest, my singleness was always #1 on my list of issues I wanted God to address during that time. If I’m honest, my singleness…or more to the point, my desire to be otherwise…dominated my time. I wanted a word, a kernel of hope that marriage would happen, even a “yes” or “no” to the question “will I ever get married?” But on this day, during this fast, this time of prayer and meditation, the only item on my agenda was getting my heart and life right with God. The specifics of that were His deal, not mine.
Finally, Awesome Thing #5 was sharing all of this, and more, with my sweet Canadian friend and having her think it was all awesome, too.
As the verse at the start of this post illustrates, I didn't do this...but, I didn't NOT do it, either. God birthed the desire for this fast and He made it happen. Scripture says that God works in us, both to will (want, desire) and do good works. Wanting and doing. All God...and also all us. Those words there are verbs. Verbs indicate action...and without action on both sides of the spiritual coin (God's and ours) there would be no good works...this blog post would not be possible.
I’ll share more willing and doing awesomeness in Part 3. Don’t touch that dial! ;)