By Brianna Hines
It seems like I spend a lot of my life somewhat invisible. There are so many things I do as a wife and mom, day in and day out, that never get noticed. Every dirty sock I toss in the bin, every snotty nose I wipe, every bill I pay, toy I pick up, bagel I shmear, bed I make, hug I give, listening ear I offer, kind word I share, harsh word I hold back, all of it goes mostly unnoticed. I’ll be honest. Some days I mind more than others. I would like to say that serving my family is easy and I love doing all of these things, noticed or not, but I would be lying. Some days it gets really old, especially on the days when my kids inform me that I never do anything for them.
“Excuse me? Who washed those clothes you are wearing? Who made that food on your plate? Who shopped for those groceries while you screamed in the cart for not buying you another worthless toy? Huh? Ya, that’s right! Me! Your mother! I do everything for you and the least you could do is be a little grateful once in a while! How about from now on you do your own laundry? And make your own dinner? And WALK to school?”
I don’t even want to tell you how often I snap, and those exact words come tumbling out of my mouth. My kids can almost recite them by memory at this point. But it keeps happening because despite the biblical truth that all of our service should be an act of worship to God alone, it sure sucks when I don’t get any credit for it.
Why is it that we long to be noticed so bad? I have realized that almost everything I do and say is a form of image management — me trying to manipulate someone else’s view of me. When other people notice all the sacrificial things I do for them, they will think of me as a kind, humble, servant-hearted wife and mom and therefore worthy of their admiration. I do this same sort of image management with other people, too. I am so much sweeter to my kids when other moms are around because I don’t want them to know that I’m not a nice mom all the time, that I yell sometimes (okay, “often” is probably a better word to use here), and that I have days where I seriously wonder why I ever had kids in the first place. That would be too vulnerable, too embarrassing to admit, so I put on my Mary Poppins voice in public and save the psychotic Cruella voice for at home, where no one else can hear it and judge me.
It is all about managing my image, making sure what other people see is the kinder, prettier, holier version of myself that I wish I could actually be the majority of the time. Even admitting my failures is manipulative sometimes because I am trying to make people think how humble and authentic I am, even though there is a lot more sin hiding in a closet I keep padlocked shut. I don’t like looking like the sinner I am.
I think that is why it is so important to Jesus that we worship our Father in secret sometimes. We need times when we are offering ourselves to Him alone because we realize then that His opinion is the only one that matters, and His view of us can never be skewed, no matter how much image management we attempt with Him. God sees everything, even into the darkest closets of our souls, and He still loves us. We need that reminder more than any approval we can receive from other people. God knows it all, all my junk, all my sin, all my manipulation and anger and synthetically cultivated humility, and He still wants me. Me. Just me. We all need to know this truth. To accept it. To let it sink into the deepest parts of us, so that we can live as women fully loved and fully accepted and just full. When we are full, we don’t much care about what the rest of the world thinks, and that is exactly what God is hoping for.
Fasting is a mainly private form of worship. Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6 that when we fast, we are to do it before an audience of One. Just like tithing and praying should not be things we do to seek approval and esteem from others, so fasting is not a way to earn holiness points in front of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must not use them to manipulate others’ image of us. Fasting is an opportunity to do something for God that no one else will ever see, to get alone with Him in private worship, all throughout our busy days. Everyone else will be oblivious to our humble offering of hunger and prayer, but our Heavenly Father will know what we are doing.
He will know how hungry we are. He will know about the pulsing pain growing behind our eyeballs from skipping our cup of coffee that morning. He will know how tired we feel and how frustrating it will be for us to have to slow down when we start getting a little light headed. God will know what we are going through. He will also see what we choose to do in response. God will see when we choose to make our children a special breakfast, even though we won’t take a bite of it. He will watch as we politely decline the cookie offered to us by a friend that is making our mouth water like a faucet. He will sit with us on our lunch break, while we read instead of heading to the food court. He will even see when we bow our heads in repentance for when we fail hard and let our “hangry” get the best of us. God will see all of these things, and they will be a sweet offering of praise to Him, and Him alone.
Fasting gets us alone with our Father. It is a thousand private offerings each moment we choose to replace our hunger with prayer, our headaches with good attitudes, our fatigue with surrender, our resentment with service. Fasting will challenge us to worship before an audience of One and hide from any worldly praise we might seek. It will be hard. Okay, let’s be honest, sometimes it will downright suck, but Jesus promises there will be a reward. And I don’t know about you, but I am betting that a reward from God is going to beat any perk I might get from acting holier than I really am any day. I can’t wait to find out what it will be. Maybe it will be the reward of not worrying about what other people think. Worth it.