Lent in Reverse: Fasting from God (part 2)

This is the second part of the story. To begin at the beginning, click here.

There are many things I want to write about this accidental fast from God. At the risk of editing and reformatting too long, to the point of paralyzation, I write without the preface of organized thought. Oh, and get comfy. This is a long one.

God doesn’t like to be ignored for long.

Our God is a great pursuer. The Hound of Heaven, written by Francis Thompson, describes God’s grand and persistent chase of those whom He loves. But why read a 30-page poem when you can read the full story? Check out the entire Old Testament! Story after story after story reveal the common thread of God’s long-suffering pursuit of mankind. He woos us with patience and strength, with power and provision, with mercy and grace and love. Love like no other can give! And He never, ever, EVER gives up.

I may forget God. I may ignore Him day after day, but He still woos me. He still loves me and craves my attention. He desires that I would come to Him, even when I pretend I don’t care, even when I’m not sure how or why I need Him. Oh, and I do need Him.

We crave life and life comes only from God.

After a few weeks of fasting from God, I decided enough was enough. The Great Pursuer had nagged at my soul with consistent knocks and tugs until, still frustrated and unconvinced, I finally opened my Bible. Not having a plan, my fingers numbly selected a well-worn starting place: John 1.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.

Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.

That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it.

I’ve read these five verses every day since. They draw me like a moth to a porchlight.

That simile, of course, conjures the scene from Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life.” One flying creature admonishes his friend: “Look away! Look away!” His friend simply cannot. In a trance, still flying straight toward a bug zapper, he proclaims: “It’s so BEAUTIFUL!” — ZAP!!!

That’s me. God’s Word, this passage in particular, absolutely beautiful, and I cannot look away. Fortunately, rather than staring a blue light of death, I’m entranced by life.

“Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.”

Sometimes we believe we are our own sources of life. We wake. We eat. We drink. We sleep. We exercise (some of us do, anyway). We provide for our families. We teach our children. We give to our neighbors. We do, we do, we do and it can be easy to believe we do all this by our own power.

We don’t. We do none of this by our own power.

“…’Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” — Zechariah 4:6

It is God who wakes us, who provides for us, who allows us rest and energy and wisdom and knowledge and strength. It is He who empowers us. He is the Life that runs through us. He is Life and there is no Life outside of Him and His gracious will for us.

Oh, we can keep working, but our fruit will rot. A. W. Tozer said this:

“Religious work can be done by natural men without the gifts of the Spirit, and it can be done well and skillfully. But work designed for eternity can only be done by the eternal Spirit. No work has eternity in it unless it is done by the Spirit through gifts He has Himself implanted in the souls of redeemed men.”

I can ignore God, refuse to pray or read His Word. That’s my choice. But if I want my time on earth to matter, to last, I need to live a Life, not just go through the motions.

I want to tell you that my burden grew in my fast. I want to share some dynamic story of how going through the motions without God really made my life more difficult. But it didn’t. That, sadly, says more about me than about Him.

There is great power in God and in meeting with Him, but one can become dehydrated long before she grows thirsty. It seems I’ve been going through the motions for a while. I’ve lifted my cup, but not drank. I’ve played the part, performed my role, but not invited Life.

When was the last time I sat in awe of His Word as I have these last few days? When was the last time I truly prayed from the depths of my being rather than weighing my words for their poetic merit?

Know there exists no pride in these confessions. Rather, sadness. I ache to restore that passion that once blossomed effortlessly.

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We build our own obstacles to God.

In her book Wonderstruck Margaret Feinberg writes about Lent and how, in spite of being raised outside the practice, has grown to treasure this season. She shares how each year she prays for the Spirit to spotlight a specific Lenten challenge she should accept. He doesn’t always answer the way she expects.

One rather remarkable year, she felt God asking her to fast from prayer. It wasn’t a total fast, but rather a disciplined limitation: three word prayers. No more. It was difficult, but she stuck with it and, through the journey, discovered a renewed simplicity in communicating with God. Furthermore, her fast revealed the superfluous verbage we often apply to our prayers. We use many words when few will do.

We must ask: Why? Why do we prattle on?

Sometimes we decorate our prayers for others hearing. Sometimes for our own hearing. All this reflects pride rather than worship.

Perhaps our subconscious believes that lengthy requests warrant quicker answers. Or that the right words will evoke the right results. Is it possible we believe the power of prayer actually stems from the way in which we pray rather then One to whom we pray? Again, we’re looking at pride — and likely a misshapen image of God and poor doctrine of prayer.

I have found some major parallels between Margaret’s fast of prayer and mine of God. There are a number of distinctions (hers was intentional and active; mine was accidental and passive), but we both removed what should be a most important thing. In its absence we discovered previously invisible excess. It’s like when you move a heavy piece of furniture and find all the stuff that has hidden unnoticed beneath and behind.

Margaret unearthed flowery-yet-hollow words, pride, and rote practice.

I unearthed flashy-yet-hollow service, pride and rote practice.

Sometimes the obstacles between us and God spawn from our circumstances or our past. When we know God, when we see Him as He really is, all those obstacles pale in the face of His magnificent power and grace. He is simply bigger than all of that.

What, then, digs the chasm between us? When we know God, how do we drift from Him?

By obstacles we build ourselves.

Pride.
Apathy.
Display without merit.
Rote practice.
Hollow efforts, all of them.

Removing the most important parts of my faith didn’t strengthen my faith. It revealed the obstacles I had built between me and God. It helped me see what needs to be chiseled and pruned, to recognize what inhibits my growth.

This isn’t over. I haven’t a plan, yet, for attackingthis, but at least now I can see it more clearly. I can clean out those dusty corners, replace my Big Important things, and start anew.

I can begin again, knowing that I choose Life.

TALK TO ME: How do you keep your worship from growing rote and your faith from becoming stale?

Talk to me!

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