Fasting. I imagine medieval monks wearing hair shirts and somber starvation. I fasted once to prepare for a colonoscopy, and general anesthesia should be offered. My church friends suggested a spiritual fast to commemorate leap year: “Let’s fast from sunup to 5 p.m. and pray toward big dreams.”

Fasting. I imagine medieval monks wearing hair shirts and somber starvation. I fasted once to prepare for a colonoscopy, and general anesthesia should be offered. My church friends suggested a spiritual fast to commemorate leap year: “Let’s fast from sunup to 5 p.m. and pray toward big dreams.”


How can I abstain from eating for over 10 hours? Without food, I’m weak and cranky by 10 a.m. I would keep a fasting journal and seek advice. My friend Tolu Bradley suggested that if a fast begins at sunup, just get up earlier to eat. What a good idea! So are lattes allowed?


“The fast should be from anything you rely on, whether it’s food, or coffee or whatever. Just try to rely on God.”


I should have relied on an alarm clock. I had planned to eat before sunrise at 6:30 a.m. Instead I woke up late, aghast at having lost my date with an omelet. I thought, “Maybe I can sleep in and shave more time off this ordeal.” Then I wrote in my journal: “Looking for an angle around the rules is not the right heart to have.”


I wanted to stay in my pajamas as if I were having a sick day, but the passage in Matthew 6:16 wagged its finger at me. “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.” In my journal I wrote, “Lose the PJs. Methinks you want attention.”


That day my inner wanderings were recorded. For example, weight loss and new clothes rented space in my head. Tummy pangs sparked feelings of entitlement: “I work hard. I should eat whatever I want and whenever I want.” I feared the moment when wild animal hunger might strike. Anxiety. Impatience. Annoyance. Guilt.


My journal was all about my complaints and my feelings. I had not invited God into my experience. Without his presence, what would I come away with? Ten hours of no food. A two-way dialogue would make it meaningful, as I realized I had been the star of a one-woman gabfest. That’s not prayer. Where is the listening?


So I sat down to pray. What did I actually feel? Strangely enough, satisfaction and hunger shared the same space. Fasting was a voluntary act, not a forced condition. Feelings of safety, blessings, and gratitude followed.       


To deepen any friendship, you have to spend time and make it special.


God doesn’t “need” my self-denial. I do. It’s eye opening to have one’s self-centeredness revealed. God knows me so well, listening as I chatter on, nodding his head, “Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.”


Suddenly I looked up “fast” in the Bible, and found passages about abstaining from food. But I also saw instances of “hold fast” meaning to cling, adhere, attach, bond, or stick to God. A spiritual fast creates a clearer channel for conversation, like a productive therapy session. It starts with discomfort and griping, but it leads to clarity. Finally, God was getting a word in edgewise, “I’ll keep you safe. Hold fast to me.”


I told him, “Good one! And “fast” has another meaning. Speed. And five o’clock can’t come fast enough!” But when I looked up, it was six.


Email Suzette Standring at suzmar@comcast.net. She is the producer of “Suzette Standring: A Writer’s Meditation CD,” available only on her website, www.readsuzette.com.