Samuel Johnson once said that the prospect of standing before a firing squad can marvelously focus one’s mind. There are other moments in life that can have the same effect — like the challenge that came from my wife to join her in losing some weight. Dieting has been like some of my experiences of fasting — instead of insights I get grouchy.
Well, I learned something amazing in this experience as well as something deeply spiritual. The diet was primarily based on calorie reduction. Taking in about one third of my usual daily consumption.
The first thing that became apparent is what a slave to food I am. Am I unhappy? I eat. Am I happy? I eat. Tired? eat. Upset, depressed, bored? Eat, eat, eat. This is only reinforced by a church tradition that says, if we have a social gathering, then we must eat! In my life, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 could easily read, “Eat always, eat without ceasing, and eat in all circumstances.”
But about two weeks into the diet, I discovered a new freedom. I discovered that I didn’t just have to live on the level of my physical appetite. As Jesus said in John’s gospel, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” As the my diet came to an end, I actually became a little apprehensive to go back to eating normally, afraid that I might lose this new found freedom.
The last thing I learned was how good those things tasted that I would have passed by not being on a diet. An apple had an incredible taste. Everything had a deeper, richer, sometimes explosive taste. It reminded me of Psalm 34: “O taste and see that the Lord is Good.” And I thought to myself, this is the hunger I want to have for God and His Word. I don’t want a dutiful devotional time, I want a devotional and prayer time that satisfies a hunger within me. That is why I am continuing to fast/diet during Lent. I am reducing my food intake so that it will increase my hunger for God and His Word. I don’t know that it will do anything for the Kingdom, but it’s already been beneficial and transformational for me.
This week’s Montesano Lenten luncheon will be hosted by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Montesano. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. with a brief Lenten service following. JoDene Romeijn-Stout will be speaking on “Living the Transformed Life.” All are Welcome!
The Rev. Steven Fischback is from the Montesano Presbyterian Church