"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. - Isaiah 58:6-14
The first time I fasted was about a year after I came to the Lord... so I was probably, I don't know, 17? Young, anyway. :) I didn't have a clue what I was doing or why I was doing it - the camp where I'd come to Christ held a few retreat weekends throughout the year, and they'd asked us to fast at least a meal that weekend - I (in a fit of maturity, I'm sure) decided to fast the first one and get it over with. (Just kidding... I think...) :) I'm honestly not sure now what the motivation was exactly, but there I was, at the first dinner of the weekend, smelling all that good food and listening to all my friends catch up on the past couple of months' news - and I was "starving." So I went and camped out on the stairs around the corner with my Bible and looked up fasting, trying to figure this thing out...
And God gave me His vision for my future.
I read Isaiah 58 that day, and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. Do this. This is who I'm making you to be. These are the things that are to mark your life... I'm sure those weren't His exact words, but that was the jist of it.
And in the 17 years I've been chasing Jesus, I have never forgotten it. It's always been there, in the back of my head, as some future thing...
Sometimes I am so incredibly daft...
This Lenten fast I've been doing has largely been an act of obedience - I knew I was supposed to do it. I know on a practical level that it will help me physically and bring healing, as I stop eating foods that harm and start eating foods that heal. I know that there are things that fasting has always done in the lives of God's people - biblically, fasts are ordered for purification, repentance, and discernment.* Lenten fasts in particular tend to be for repentance...** tho I wasn't sure what I was repenting for aside from eating a whole lot of junk and thereby choosing to be less than whole on purpose. I suppose on some level I was fasting for all three things - I have been in the midst of what feels like one of the most major shifts I've ever been through over the past four or five months, and while I have ideas of what He's doing and where this process is going, I've been wanting more clarity, and longing for holiness more than ever as I've taken one faltering step after another down this path on which I currently find myself (as the ground continues to heave unpredictably, and I still distrust my ability to walk it even when the ground is behaving...).
When God first gave me this passage as a calling, I thought of it mostly in terms of how I would live in regards to other people, and I did not anticipate this verse being true of me:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
And yet, last night, this is exactly what happened...tho it is my sense that it was only the... well, beginning isn't quite the right word, because it began awhile ago, but it's not the end either... hm... it was only a step, then - but it was a significant one for all that. Some things have happened over the course of my life that have been terribly unjust. Because of those things, I learned some patterns of thought that were neither healthy nor true. I became intellectually and emotionally bound by them, and the harshness of the judgment with which I have learned to look at myself has yoked me to an unrealistic standard - and worse, an even more unrealistic expectation of how to achieve it. I have been wrestling for weeks now with three major issues: my temper, my rebelliousness, and my issues with failure/perfectionism. They tie into everything - and I have been increasingly convicted of my need to surrender those things to the Lord - and, true to form, I've tried to do it on my own. *sigh* what was that about being daft?
And last night, as someone prayed over me, I realized that a) there's been a spiritual component to those three struggles that I have not acknowledged, and over which God alone has authority; and b) that I cannot on my own overcome them - that what I need is the Holy Spirit at work in my heart and mind to transform me into His image. Jesus said to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) and then He sent us a Counselor to aid us in that task. I have been treating my life, and even holiness, as a project at which I can succeed or fail on my own - and yes, I bear responsibility - but surrender is ultimately the key to getting anywhere, and all I've surrendered to is a false belief that I am going to mess it up...
The chains have been loosened - I felt them start to slip last night. The cords have been untied - truth is unknotting the veil of deception through which I've been seeing for far too long. I am slightly more free today - and the yoke is about to get smashed.
It is going to be a good day.
*Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner - p. 86
** p. 85