Notes In Honor Of The Lenten Season #2

THEMATIC ELEMENT #2: Fasting

Action undertaken in honor of Jesus’ 40 day fast.

While most people understand fasting as a cleansing process, few realize that it’s a way to access hidden reserves of incredible inner strength. This has been my experience, anyway. In fact, while fasting, I have noticed that the weaker I become physically, the stronger I become psychologically and spiritually. My will seemed to know no bounds. As I deprive my body of food, a capacity to mercilessly cross some serious boundaries manifests itself in me and I am thankfully blocked by my body’s inability to follow through.

Fasting, I decided long ago, works best when you are faced with opposition, when your fight has a moral incentive, when your cause is righteous. Indeed, fasting can be a very effective weapon. I say this because of what happened to me during the mid sixties when I opposed the draft, and when in essence I became a peace warrior: After a long period of time without eating, I showed up at the military induction center in an alarmingly weakened state, and it became apparent, if not immediately than soon enough, that I was unfit for active duty. Armed with an implacable resolve, I followed instructions all the way to the military psychotherapist for a brief required session and then back to my life as a civilian. My intolerance for any kind of opposition became a triumph of will over the enemy, which in this case came in the form of my local draft board revoking my exemption from military service on religious grounds.

On another occasion during an extended brown rice fast, I found myself so far on the other side of desire or what Buddhists call craving in all of its manifestations that I no longer cared if I lived or died. Time to get back in the game, I thought — the whole drama of wanting something and not getting it, or getting it and not liking it, or getting it and being afraid of losing it, etc.

Through its eventual suppression of craving and desire, fasting can deny the Devil’s dominion over us. To quote from the Epistle of James 1:13-15 (King James Version): “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God’: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man:  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

You can’t separate Jesus’ 40 day fast from his ability to resist Satan. In fact, the fasting empowered him to do just that. Conclusion: If you are going to fight the Devil, fasting is the way to do it.

Recommendation: Jim Crace’s novel, Quarantine, the story of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. One of the best books with a biblical theme that I have ever read. Written by an atheist, by the way.

Fasting in a religious sense is also meant to be a meditation on our responsibility with regard to God’s creation and his gifts to us. Lincoln called for a national day of fasting as a way to keep America prosperous and safe, which is to say, on the side of God. Lincoln believed that the nation had forgotten God and thus was in danger of losing His benevolence. His conviction: ignore the spiritual reasons for prosperity at your own peril.

To be continued …

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