By Brianna Hines
When we first got married, Lew and I hit some rocky roads. As it turns out, it is really challenging to take two nearly opposite personalities and cram them in the same bed night after night without there being some conflict.
I hate conflict. Growing up, I learned that if I just kept my head down, burying my negative emotions deep inside, I could effectively avoid conflict of any kind. I got really good at it. It was so much easier for me to ignore things or relinquish any personal opinions I had so that I would not have to endure conflict.
However, none of my methods were working in my marriage. I had been burying my negative emotions so often I was running out of real estate, and I had sacrificed so many of my own opinions that I was going to have to become Lew pretty soon if I wanted to keep avoiding disagreements with him! Things were getting desperate.
My solution was to slap a proverbial BAND-AID on every conflict that I couldn’t avoid in the form of pat answers. The worst offender by far was, “I’m fine.” But I wasn’t fine. I was so very far from fine. I was like a giant zit just waiting to pop and cover him with all my festering resentment and anger and hurt.
When things got really bad, my parents offered to pay for us to go see a marriage counselor. In those first sessions, Lew did most of the talking. Unlike me, he is a verbal processor, and I enjoyed sitting back and listening to him unpack his emotional baggage and apologize for all of his mistakes. Not going to lie, it felt pretty good. It wasn’t until several months into the process that we started peeling back the layers of my carefully crafted disguise of “fine-ness” that things got interesting.
During those later sessions, we all realized that I struggle with many sins. Surprise, surprise! But the most shocking to me was lying. Me? A liar? Never! However, in all those years of desperation to avoid conflict, I had become a “liar, liar, pants on fire,” and I didn’t even realize it. All those pat answers and “I’m fine’s” were bold-faced lies to a genuinely concerned husband. My lying had created a wedge between us that had grown to the size of the Grand Canyon, all because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable and actually tell Lew the truth that I didn’t agree with something he had said or done. In hindsight, it was ridiculous and immature, but at the time, telling lies seemed like the best option to “save” our relationship from fights until they grew into a deadly sin habit that was choking out our marriage.
Sin grows, and most of the time it can do so completely undetected until it has taken deep root. When a sin becomes habitual, it can feel impossible to break free. Learning how to stop lying to my husband to avoid conflict has been a long and painful process. It has required so much grace on the part of Lew, and so much begging for God’s help from me. It took me all 12 years since then to figure out that I can’t fight sin alone. I need the Holy Spirit to convict me of it, Jesus to cleanse me of it, and God to give me the strength to fight it again and again. Dependence on God does not come naturally for me – and I would argue that it doesn’t come naturally for any other human being either – so I had to practice it. I had to practice needing God.
Fasting is the perfect place to practice needing God. Waging war with our very flesh will soon show us just how weak we really are. It will humble us. We simply cannot do it very long in our own strength. We need God to get us through and are reminded of that every hour (or more!) for the duration of our fast.
All this practice depending on God will also make us more empathetic toward any person struggling to break free from habitual sin. Our urge to cheat on our fast is not so different from my urge to lie, or a man’s urge to look at porn, or another woman’s urge to have an intimate conversation with her male coworker rather than her husband. Our flesh is a tough thing to ignore, and we all need God’s help in waging war with its sinful desires, no matter where they fall on our Christian scale of acceptability.
I find it very interesting that when Jesus was being tempted by the devil for forty days in the wilderness His response was to fast. There is a connection between fasting and fighting off temptation that we would be foolish to ignore. Jesus had Satan in His face and His solution was to fast and meditate on Scripture.
We may not have Satan in our face, but we have him in our head, spouting lies that sound a lot like scripture and tempting us to do things apart from God’s power and purpose. We might consider using the same method Jesus did, especially when we are fighting against deeply rooted habitual sin. There is power in training ourselves to need God every hour, power that Satan doesn’t want us to utilize. Perhaps he has been the one responsible for fasting’s decline in popularity among Christians today. He doesn’t want us to use one of our deadliest weapons against him. I am picturing a double-sided light saber with one side being fasting and the other being Scripture meditation. It would be purple of course. But none of us will ever be able to wield a weapon we have never practiced using.
I am still practicing. I am still figuring out this fasting thing. What I do know is that Jesus practiced, too, and He probably didn’t do 40 days as His first go. Jesus probably fasted regularly for years before He entered the wilderness, and that is exactly why He knew it was the weapon of choice to resist the temptation of the enemy. Jesus knew the value of practicing dependence on His Father. He knew the value of fasting, and I hope we begin to see the value it can have in our own lives as we face the temptation of the enemy every single day. Look out, Satan! There’s some ladies with lightsabers coming your way, and we mean business.