I am currently writing this post while eating waffles and ice cream and thanking the good Lord that I didn’t have to fast from food this past week. Now besides being insanely jealous of my breakfast you are probably also wondering how I fasted if I didn’t give up food.
Our traditional view on fasting is that you go without food for a certain period of time in order to bring our minds back to the fact that we are not self-sufficient and that we need a connection with God to thrive in life. It is a private matter and most commonly done in times of lamentation, mourning, or petition, but can be practiced at any time.
I have fasted from food several times before but never for a whole week. And while there is nothing wrong with fasting from food I decided this week to do a different type of fast. I wanted to show that even if we can’t give up food for an extended period of time it doesn’t mean that we have to forgo this spiritual discipline. So rather than giving up food this week I gave up my phone and my bed…or in other words my comfort.
This post is going to be in a different format from the past 3 in this series as I will not be sharing on a day to day basis but instead I will be sharing my general thoughts over the whole week:
This was an easier week in some ways and also vastly challenging and convicting in other ways. It isn’t until you go without something that you realise how much of an impact it has on your life. You realise that maybe just maybe you were addicted to it.
Sandwiches vs. Steaks
Like most people I am fairly active on social media and never really thought of its impact on my life until I went without it this week (or tried to go without it, I’ll admit that it was a lot harder than I thought and I tripped up several times). For the most part we scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds without realising the effects that it has on our brains. I came to the realisation that while I was mindlessly scrolling through pictures and status updates I was starting to compare my everyday life with other people’s highlights. And as I was doing this I was slowly making myself feel worse and worse about my seemingly boring and average life. This lead to me feeling like I was missing out on so many things and that people were having way more fun everyday than me; and that my life was deeply and depressingly dull.
By comparing my everyday life with everyone else’s picture perfect Instagram life I was unknowingly lowering my own self-esteem. And that comparison is much like comparing sandwiches to steaks. Both are nourishing to our bodies, but no one’s whole life is spent eating fancy steaks…but you also don’t post many pictures of your ham and cheese sandwich online. For the most part our lives are more sandwich moments than steak moments, yet somewhere along the line we’ve begun to think that we need to have the perfect life all of the time.
So this week of fasting from social media (or at least trying to) really allowed for me to realise that while Facebook and Instagram and all that can be a great way for us to stay connected with the people in our lives; we have to be careful that we don’t become addicted to it; always chasing after the “likes” or the “comments”. Taking a break from it doesn’t mean that I no longer care about other people’s lives, it means that I care about more than the highlights of their lives. I care about the sandwich moments too, not just the steaks. But I also have to look out for my own mental health, and if that means taking a break every once in a while and making sure that I’m not letting my phone rule my life then that’s what I’m going to do.
We spend so much time and put so much effort into trying to get the perfect picture to post that we end up missing out on the beauty and extravagance of the world that is all around us. We become so focused on compiling the perfect life online that we miss out on living the perfectly flawed life we are given. When we become so focused on the perfectionism of social media we forget to notice the beauty in the mistakes and failures that shape us as a person. Life is much messier in real life, and sometimes we need to take a break from the unspoiled reality that we have manufactured to realise that.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
I’ve done my fair share of sleeping on the ground, and while most of it was unintentional (*cough cough* make sure you bring the whole tent not just the bottom tarp and tent poles*cough cough*) this week was a very intentional choice. In our world it’s easy to forget that there are very basic human needs that we take for granted every day. Now I am well aware of the fact that even while I was sleeping on the floor I had more comfort than most people around the world do. I’m not trying to make it seem like this was some great labour-some sacrifice for me this week, because in reality it wasn’t. And I didn’t chose to give up my bed because I wanted to make myself seem all high and mighty. I did it for the simple reason that at the end of the week I wanted to be extremely thankful to God for providing me with a bed to sleep in. Because so often we thank God for the big things in our lives but we forget to thank him for the seemingly ordinary and mundane things.
While sleeping on the floor wasn’t that bad, it also wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. And by the end of the week I was beyond ready to lay down on my nice comfortable bed again. This realisation convicted me because I’ve never really taken stock of all the things in my life that I take for granted every single day. I have been so blessed in so many ways that other people might not be. And more often than not I take those blessings for granted; and it’s sad that it takes me sleeping on the floor for a week to realise that. But sometimes it takes us giving up something for us to finally recognize all that we have.
The Take Away
This week has been very enlightening for me. It made me face the reality that I am often too wrapped up in my own world – or the world of my own creation – that I completely take for granted the amazing things that God has provided for me.
Will I continue to practice fasting? I will continue to practice fasting, however I don’t think that I will be sleeping on the floor for a week again. I do however plan to take regular breaks from social media (even if it’s just for a day) so that I can refocus and remember that real life is so much more than what we see online.
Would I recommend it for others? I do recommend fasting for other people. Now you could do the traditional food fast (even if you didn’t want to go a whole week straight you could fast from 8am-4pm); but I also recommend finding something in your life that isn’t bad for you (your bed, pillows, phone, make-up, etc.) and giving that up for a period of time so that at the end of it you can become more grateful for all that God has provided for you. I also encourage you to remember that life is filled with more sandwich moments than steak moments and to celebrate the everyday things, not just the Instagram worthy things.
The Wrap Up
So this marks the end of my 4 week experiment in spiritual disciplines. I’ve learned a lot, and tried a lot, and failed a lot over the past month. However ultimately I think that I have come out the other side a different person than who I was when I started this journey. I have also practiced some disciplines that I had never previously thought about and have taken practices with me that have really helped to deepen my relationship with God. All in all this was a wonderfully stretching experience and I hope to be able to integrate the different disciplines and their many facets into my life moving forward.
I encourage you to try something new today that you might have previously thought was out of your spiritual wheel house. Stretch yourself because that’s the only way that we can grow.