Fast Day | Isaiah 58:6-9
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ Isaiah 58:6-9 | MSG
Not only is there a performance trap when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, there’s a huge me trap. There is a huge danger of any spiritual practice drifting into malignant ruts of self-righteous self-absorption. And so our Israelite ancestors fasted right on schedule – looking for the divine reward points to be credited to them as they continued stepping on their neighbors (who were no doubt interfering with their fasting). But fasting that doesn’t issue in compassion is a waste of body and spirit. You might as well eat the cheeseburger. Solitude that doesn’t lead us into being more compassionately present with others is only to exquisitely miss the whole point in a self-indulgent exercise. We should have stayed in the “prayer bunker” just a little longer. Silence that doesn’t produce more sensitive, healing communication would be better off permanent. Isaiah’s cry in the midst of our spiritual disciplines is a much needed, ongoing reminder that none of these practices is about me. Humility, generosity, kindness – these are all well beyond our reach; unlike our natural tendencies to self-absorption and self-promotion. Going without a meal, seeking solitude in an out of the way place, putting away the iPod, these are all within our reach. But the why is crucial. It really isn’t about me. It’s about me getting to a place where I can be reminded of who He is, of who I am in him, and thus who you are as I encounter you. And then maybe, just maybe, I can experience that encounter with you and with life more from an inner context of divine grace rather than the meanness that comes more naturally to us all.
How is God challenging you through this week’s reflections to leave? How will you respond to his call?
Lord, show me how to keep a true, healthy fast in my life! Deliver me from ruts of self-righteousness and self-absorption. Deliver me from my own meanness of spirit. Enlarge my heart even as I leave food and company to more deeply enter into your company and into the company of your graces.
Perhaps a more ambitious step. Try forgoing eating out for a week. Take the money you would have spent and give it to someone in need.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.