In October, my crazy friend, Marc, and I will be running a marathon! To build the stamina to run 26.2 miles we started training months ago. I underestimated how much of my time and energy this consumes. We meet early mornings, usually around 5 a.m., for long runs.
Some mornings, it’s rainy. Or cold. Most mornings, my bed feels so cozy and the thought of hitting the pavement sounds ridiculous! However, I know in the end, the discipline will pay off when we cross the finish line.
In order to keep our minds off the pain of running, Marc and I usually talk about a number of our favorite things, but rarely do we talk about spiritual disciplines. Although lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fasting, which is weird since training for a marathon means I should probably be eating more food.
However, there are a number of different ways to fast – with refraining from media outlets andbeing quite common. But regardless of what the fast is about, they all make me uncomfortable. I told this to Marc, a relatively new Christian, and his response stunned me.
“Well, I don’t understand fasting. Jesus Christ died on the cross for me, and in return, I’m supposed to give up Starbucks? Seems like we’re missing the point.”
Whoa! Instantly, I was humbled.
When I fast, I usually chose something that won’t necessarily bother me too much… like abstaining from Starbucks or Facebook. Marc and I discussed the issue of fasting for the next couple of miles. We compared it to our marathon training.
I realize that much like my marathon training prepares my physical body for the task ahead of me, Christian fasting is a discipline for the soul. By fasting, I make a conscious decision to sacrifice comfort to draw closer to the heart of Christ. Fasting allows us the privilege of sharing in His suffering.
After a couple of miles, I realized that maybe my problem with fasting is that I was missing the point all along. As with all things that are difficult, such as fasting or marathon training, there is also so much joy to be found.
May we challenge ourselves today to pray about a way we can experience the discipline of Christian fasting, and in doing so, enter into the presence of our God.