Discovery through Denial

Last weekend, I did my first ever 3-day water fast (as in, I drank only water for 3 days). I have never felt so physically weak in my life. Or so mentally and emotionally refreshed.

It was a somewhat spontaneous adventure––the idea just came to me the week before. But the more I considered the idea, the more excited I became. In fact, I was struggling a bit––actually, a lot––leading up to this fast, but I didn’t think of this fast as a “cure” so much as a a bright, attractive idea that stuck out amidst the grayness.

I approached it with nervousness and expectation. Would I even “survive” physically? What would happen spiritually?

I was not disappointed…It was AMAZING! Here were some of my discoveries:

1. Some emotions and thoughts are unnecessary.

While fasting, I felt like an emotional weight was lifted from me. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I simply had no energy to waste on excess emotions or thoughts. I worried less what people thought of me. I worried less about myself. I worried less in general.

God has told me before that worrying is simply unnecessary. I don’t have to indulge in a single moment of anxiety about a problem in order to feel like a responsible person. When you’re living under God’s care, it’s simply a waste of time. I bring it to God; a plan is formed. Done. (For the parts of the plan you don’t yet understand, trust is required.)

2. It feels good to be myself.

Worrying less what people thought of me meant having no filter. I said what I thought. I had immediate, honest reactions (maybe sometimes too honest…). I let down my guard and openly shared things with people I wouldn’t normally have shared. It was incredibly freeing.

I’ve always been “slow to warm up.” It usually takes awhile for my true self to come out in new environments, so I’m glad this fast accelerated that process. (For one thing, I got to hold a baby for the first time in forever––because I asked if I could––which was a really, really sweet experience.)

3. When you are in need, you make space for the supernatural.

During this fast, I had to rely on God for strength. I knew there was nothing natural about ingesting 0 calories and then expecting to have energy to walk around and talk to people and play the djembe with the praise team. On Sunday, it took me forever to get ready for church because I kept sitting down and not being able to get back up. But by the time morning praise practice ended, I was overflowing with supernatural ENERGY and JOY. I talked the head off my praise team leader I was so excited.

It is vulnerable to let yourself be weak and in need, but it’s incredibly wondrous to experience God provide in such a tangible way.

4. Denying yourself things you want or “need” brings clarity about what is actually essential.

For me, the essentials would be God. Joy. Music. In that order. (Okay, and people.)

When I only fast for one day, I usually don’t feel that hungry. I can usually put food out of my mind fairly easily. But during Day 2 and 3 of this fast, I felt hungry almost constantly. I was constantly reminded that I was denying myself. Which constantly reminded me that I live for more than myself.

Also, on Saturday, when I felt like I had no energy to do anything, I started working on a piano piece I’ve always wanted to learn (Chopin’s fourth ballade). I didn’t just fiddle around on my keyboard, I went to work learning that piece for a couple hours. I was surprised that I was able to focus that intently for that long. I realized that if I don’t have energy for other things, I almost always have energy to make music––I gain energy from music. I was reminded why playing the piano was always such a big part of my life and why it still should be.

5. When you stop watching TV, you become a lot more productive.

I also fasted from TV and movies during the weekend. (Definitely a contributing factor to my mental clarity.) If I hadn’t done that, I probably would never have started practicing a classical piano piece or done the online shopping I had been putting off for so long. (Finally got a desk and dresser! Now I just have to put them together…)

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I came away from this fasting weekend full of HOPE and CLARITY. It made me want to fast like this regularly (maybe twice a year?). But I was also so excited about the prospect of eating on Monday morning, that I felt like a kid trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I just couldn’t. I ended up breaking the fast at 2:30am on Monday morning––with rice porridge and saltines, eaten with care. (Tastiest rice I’ve ever eaten in my life.)

But that, too, was part of the joy of the fast: The intense delight of secretly munching on saltines in the middle of the night while watching an episode of The West Wing, knowing that God was celebrating with me during this special meal.

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Elizabeth holds to simple faith in a complex world. She values the beauty of the everyday and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is currently pursuing her MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary, so when she isn't busy writing academic papers, she is usually out enjoying the LA sunshine. She is constantly learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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