By Brianna Hines
Well, I did it again. I messed up my fast today. Without even thinking, I popped the remainder of my daughter’s lunch into my mouth, and I didn’t even remember I was fasting until round about the time I swallowed. I would have spit it out, but it was too late. It was almost comical because here I am teaching a series on fasting and I fail my own fast not an hour after giving a talk on it. The saying does seem to be true — whenever someone decides to teach about something, God will make sure that person is learning it! I certainly learned afresh today what it feels like to fail a fast.
Even though I have been practicing fasting for several years now, I immediately started asking myself the same questions I did when I failed my first fast: Should I just give up on this fast today or keep going? Does it still count? Is this God telling me I should eat today? Was I even supposed to fast today in the first place?
I went round and round in my head and then to my husband about what I should do. It was silly. Eventually Lew told me, “Stop overthinking it. Just finish the fast.” So I did. Even though I felt like a total failure and was a bit embarrassed that I am teaching this stuff and still messed up, I pushed through to the finish. And do you know what? It felt really good.
So what? So what if we mess up? So what if we trip on the silliest of temptations? So what if we only make it an hour before breaking down? The important thing is that we are trying, that our heart is in it and we are making an effort. God cares about effort. He cares about heart. He doesn’t care that much about perfect because none of us are, and perfect doesn’t present many learning opportunities anyway. Nope, God wants what I have to offer Him right here, right now, however feeble it may appear because now is the very best time to worship Him. Not someday. Not when I reach some “perfect season of life” for it, or when I have more time (ya, right), or when I can be “all-in,” which translated means: when I think I can do it perfectly without any prior experience. No. God prefers a messy offering of worship now to a perfect offering of worship later, every time.
If you are afraid to fast because you are afraid to fail, you are not alone. We all hate failing. Probably because it proves just how weak and needy and human we really are. Just about the time I start getting confident, with anything in my life, is about the same time I fail. “Okay! I have raised three pretty well-behaved kids at this point! Four will be a breeze!” Then God gave me Patty, and she is a sweetheart but also a fire-breathing dragon at points. Sometimes she has a temper like no other child I have ever seen, and LUNGS! I think the Lord saw my parenting pride and decided to up the challenge, so I would admit that I am not as “all-that” as I was starting to think. I still need Him desperately as I navigate parenting, and it will be by His grace alone that I raise any of them well. Pride is a worship killer, so sometimes the Lord has to allow us to fall off our custom built wagons as a reality check.
It is kind of like my four year old in the swimming pool. He can’t swim, but after an hour in the pool wearing his life jacket, he thought he could. So when we took it off to head back to the hotel room, he thought he would take one more dip, all by himself. I heard the splash and sprinted over to find a very terrified four year old staring wide-eyed at me from under the water. It was a quick lesson in just exactly what was keeping him afloat in the pool, and it wasn’t him.
The same is true with our practice of fasting, or any other spiritual discipline, or even our very lives! God is the one keeping us afloat, giving us the strength to stay above water and we will get a swift reality check when we start putting too much confidence in ourselves, when our pride takes the life jacket off and we try to get holy without God’s help.
When, not if, you fail when fasting, don’t be discouraged. Use it as an opportunity to ask God for help and to persevere through it. Our efforts won’t be perfect. God never asked them to be. God just wants to get closer to us, to be there when we realize we can’t do it on our own. He wants to see you grow, and He is proud of your effort whatever that looks like right now. So don’t be afraid of fasting. You will fail, but you can also prevail. Just remember to wear your life jacket and ask the Lord for help as an act of humble worship to Him.