Fasting: A Time Out
Parents sometimes use Time Outs as a sort of punishment for small children. If kids have been misbehaving, then they may be told to sit in a chair for a few minutes by themselves to settle down.
Sinful or sacred?
Similarly, we might feel tempted to think that fasting is a bit of a punishment to our bodies, a “Time Out” because our bodies are bad and evil and deserve it somehow. While there are verses in Romans 6 and 7 that talk about this “body of death” or “body of sin,” Paul is not referring to our flesh and blood bodies, but our fleshly sin nature.
Our fleshly sin nature is evil, but does not need to be punished because it is already dead. That sinful body was crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).
Our flesh and blood body is not evil, and consequently does not need punishment either. In fact, our physical bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together affectionately by God Himself (Ps. 139:13,14).
A beating or a blessing?
So fasting is not a Time Out where we beat up our bodies. Instead, we are blessing them. We’re not hurting our bodies, but healing them. Or really, allowing our bodies to heal themselves as they enjoy a break and rest from all their hard work. Digestion, assimilation, day in and day out – they appreciate the reward of a little vacation! We fast to express love and compassion to ourselves and our bodies, and to honor the temple where God has chosen to dwell.
I have shared some of my favorite things about fasting: It means I’m being obedient to Jesus’ words. I’m releasing physical health and I’m accessing spiritual power. And more than anything, I’m cultivating intimacy with my Beloved. Fasting is a Time Out where I get to set aside all the cares and distractions of this world and focus on Him.
Below is a picture captured a few years ago of my brother with one of his daughters. It’s such a precious moment in time and, to me, is the perfect image of fasting. This is a picture of what we’re doing when we fast, and why. We are purposefully positioning ourselves to look upon our heavenly Father, getting face to face with Love Himself. To feel His pleasure over us. To share a smile with Him. To all at once find ourselves in His eyes, and lose ourselves in His presence, and just be with Him.
Fasting is a Time Out from our busy schedules where we create space to encounter God and let Him lavish His love and approval and goodness upon us, all the while reflecting that perfect love back to Him.
When we see it this way, we will never again say we should fast or ought to fast or we must.
Instead, we want to fast and actually look forward to it. We even make plans to do it again soon, long before next January rolls around!