Fasting: It’s Not What We Think

You can learn a lot from a HOPE61 intern.

L to R: Cory, Tom (director), Ashley, Clarissa, & Erika.  (Photo credit: OMS Facebook page)

L to R: Cory, Tom (director), Ashley, Clarissa, & Erika.
(Photo credit: OMS Facebook page)

I’ve spent the past five months in America, fundraising for my return to Australia and New Zealand. Though I’m based in Pennsylvania I’ve been able to visit OMS headquarters in Indiana a few times. Getting to know Erika, Clarissa, Ashley, and Cory (this year’s HOPE61 interns) is one of the many perks. It was a privilege to see their event planning skills, hear what they’ve learned, get ice cream, laugh and even weep with them. One afternoon I wandered over to their desks and bemoaned my writer’s block. How, oh how, could I possibly write another newsletter? Is there not some magic formula that will instantly write the letter for me, plus get me 100% funded?

Later I shared my deeper fears with Erika, who I affectionately refer to as the “Head Intern,” given her extra five months of intern experience. I fear that I have nothing original to say. I fear that I’m running out of time. I fear that I’m out of inspiration and no longer possess any ability to inspire others to support my ministry in any way. One of the wonderful things about Erika is her ability to offer wisdom without judgment. She merely smiled at my ramblings.

Have you seen Isaiah 58?” she asked. “About the kind of fast that God chooses?”

We looked up the scripture. I’d read it in passing but never meditated on it. Erika briefly showed me what impacted her and left me to think. It can be easy to read the Bible without thinking. I’ve read this before, you think. I already know what it means. Check off encouragement, note the brief conviction, then roll over and fall asleep. Isaiah 58, however, does not allow this sort of EZ-Pass Christianity.

Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet.

Instant life changer. Dedicate every centimeter of your vocal chords to crying out for justice. Continue reading and you’ll discover that fasting in God’s eyes is more than abstaining from food and going through the most pious of actions. The fasting discussed in Isaiah 58 doesn’t even mention going hungry for a day or two – the first thing most of us think of when we hear “fast” mentioned in church. This type of fasting involves releasing the heavy burdens we’ve lain on others, and making our home a place that brings in the lonely.

Then we will be known as the Restorer of Streets to Dwell in, and at long last – with the blessing of a majestic God – the old places will be rebuilt. Apathetic generations will become people of strong foundations. Our bones will grow strong. Light will dawn amid the darkness. Thus our ideas of what pleases God turns upside down. Weeks later, I’m still discerning what exactly this chapter means. I’m still rifling through all the ways it should change my ministry and my heart. Meanwhile, I’m sure that none of it is what I once expected.

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