Fasting and Feasting - A 40 day Journey into the Wilderness
What follows is a recounting of the journey I took into super-spirituality and what I learned from it.
A number of years ago, I was struggling with sin. A certain sin in particular, and my sinful nature generally. Nothing I did felt good enough, and to make matters worse, habitual actions would drag me into depressive states on a regular basis. I often felt distant from life, from others, from what I knew as ‘God’. I was invested in a lot of good things and surrounded myself with a lot of good people and yet nothing could bring the change I needed in my heart to feel good about myself. Self-loathing perpetuated negative thinking and negative action.
A voice in the wilderness
During a particularly dark period, I cried out to the night sky, pleading for a breakthrough. I was lost, alone and vulnerable. I could not see much hope for things to change. I sat defeated.
Then, in the stillness, came a thought so quiet and so foreign that I immediately dismissed it.
“I want you to fast.”
It came again and again. Until, I could no longer ignore or reject it as a random thought. It was something outside of me, and yet something so deep within at the same time. I argued with the thought. I reasoned against it. I told it where to go. And that it was asking the impossible of me. After an hour and a half of arguing with this voice in my head that was somehow connected to something so much bigger, I realised that it wasn’t going anywhere and that I would drive myself crazy if I continued to argue with it.
And so I succumbed to the divine voice, and entered into a 40 day fast, trusting that with God’s help I could endure the impossible.
The first week was certainly that. Enduring the impossible, as my body adjusted to receiving no food or drink besides water. Pains, cramps and wanton desires to feed my cravings abounded. These eventually passed as my body adapted, and were replaced with a need just to taste something, anything. As I progressed through these physical symptoms, I became more aware that I was more aware. My senses were heightened. I could taste all of the impurities in the water I was drinking, separately and simultaneously. I saw more detail and vivid colour in nature and life all around me. Time seemed to slow down and I was more present in every moment. I felt more connected to the divine than I ever had before.
It was amazing. But it did not bring me the breakthrough I was hoping for. My negative thinking and habits still persisted. Yet, for the first time, I did not feel disconnected from the source of life when negativity struck. I had found grace, and began to trust in it alone as the fountain of hope that I had always needed.
That quiet voice is always there, reminding me whenever I want to listen to it, that my connection to the source of life was a given, from the foundation of the world. This communion had nothing to do with my spiritual discipline, though it had been used to show me just that. The connection that I had felt when fasting opened up to me, all the time and everywhere. There was nothing I could do to make God love me any more or any less. No amount of fasting could change that, no amount of bible study, church attendance, or repentantly beating myself up.
I realised that I was forgiven, that I was accepted, whether I acknowledged it or not. But now that I had acknowledged how deep this acceptance ran, I could forgive and accept myself, rather than continually plead for it. I was eternally united with Love, a love greater than anything I could generate of my own accord. I only had to remember this connection, and allow the Love to flow through me, to the depths of my heart and to others.
I don’t always feel this connection to God, what some would call being “in Christ”, but it is always there. I’m often distracted, tired or busy and forget just how good life can be, no matter what the circumstance. I can put myself through hell trying to avoid it. But I am always feasting on God’s presence within, sustained by the Spirit of Life that draws me back into the present moment, whether I know it or not.
At these times the quiet voice reminds me, through a gentle breeze, my daughter’s smile or a generous offer, that the connection runs strong, drawing me into deeper, more exuberant experience. Spiritual disciplines may help one to discover this connection, but they can never create it.
Spiritual stupidity or divine folly?
Did I fast because I was super-spiritual? No. I fasted because I was super-stupid, trying to attain a grace that was always mine to begin with. I was trying to pull down some blessing that was already freely given, hungering when I already had the fullness of Christ. Yes, God had asked me to fast, but only to prove to me that I did not need to.
Fasting taught me to partake in the feast that was already happening in my life. It showed me that even in the wilderness, we are in union with the divine. Even in the depths of hell, we are caught up by Love, quietly raising us to life if we dare to trust in it. An unconditional Love. A Love that never fails.
Russell has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Russell Croft