Doing without food takes doing

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

I’ll eventually order the book because of the absolutely creative title: “Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor” by Jana Riess. Ms. Reiss focused on a different spiritual practice each month for a year, documenting her failures and successes in this book.

One of the reasons I want to read the book is my curiosity on Ms. Reiss’ chapter on fasting, a spiritual discipline I’ve tried over the years with varying degrees of success. And even in the seasons when I’ve achieved some modicum of success, I’ve never felt very good about it.

This Lent I decided to try fasting again on a modified level, a level so unsacrificial I almost hate to admit it. I am skipping lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays.

That’s it. Not much of a fast, but then the other fasts I’ve tried have not felt all that successful and I’m not so sure this one is going to be any better. For instance, on one of my fast days, a friend that I haven’t seen in 46 years came through town and offered to take me to lunch. It seemed much too inhospitable to turn him down because of a fast, so he and I ate oyster po’ boys and I silently shifted my fast day from Wednesday to Thursday.

And then there’s the matter of eating lunch with my wife on the days when I’m fasting. She and I often enjoy this midday time together, but now she is no longer comfortable eating lunch while I’m sitting across the table from her trying to avoid looking at her food. I don’t blame her for not wanting me at the table, but the end result is that I’m also “fasting” from time with my wife during Lent, an undesirable side effect of this vow.

Why fast at all? A cursory examination of the Bible will reveal that abstaining from food and drink for specified periods of time were a part of every age except, I suspect, the time when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and when the disciples were in the daily presence of Jesus. When one is in absolute communion with God, there’s no need to fast. You and I, of course, fall into neither category.

There are resources in abundance on fasting, but one of the finest is a 250-year-old sermon by John Wesley that is easily accessible on the Internet by entering the words “John Wesley sermon fasting” in your search engine.

Wesley plainly addresses the issue in four sections: What is fasting? What are the reasons and purposes for fasting? What are the objections to it? How should one fast? The sermon is comprehensive and quite readable.

Even with my own background of semi-success I still recommend the ancient spiritual discipline of fasting. Though you may come up short, there is much that can be gained from the practice.

Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at creede@wesleymonumental.org.