A few weeks ago, I got to hear Kyle Strobel speak at a conference I attended. I was so impressed by his words, that I decided to grab one of his books and have now latched onto a theme that came from the reading. Rather than quote him directly, I am going to try and paraphrase his idea of what it means engage in spiritual disciplines or practices. He frames spiritual formation as opportunities to practice the posture of dependence as a means of experiencing God’s grace. Take fasting, for example. The practice of fasting seems obscure and slightly sadistic. Why would you intentionally refrain from good things like food, chocolate, or electronic devices? I will try to answer this with a story.
My husband and I have friends who fast regularly. They are amazing and wonderful people who we feel mentored by. I confess that whenever they would mention this practice to us, speaking for myself, I would glaze over a bit. It always seemed intense and radical to me. Of course, Jesus practiced it…so it is theologically sound. That said, in my twisted mind, fasting was something you did when you were in serious need. It was the last ditch effort to hear God’s voice and let Him know that you would go to any length to hear it. (Theologically unsound.)
Enter a new idea: fasting just because. Fasting when there is no desperate tone in your voice, or pressing need in your life. Fasting as a practice of the posture of dependence. My husband, and more recently myself, have started the practice of fasting a lunch and then meeting together to pray. We like to hit the Catholic church in town during a short break in both of our busy lives. While this may not be everyone’s idea of a hot date, it is now a rhythm I look forward to living into for the rest of our days together. Rather than feeling like an awkward time of devotion, it feels like subversive lavishness. We enter into beauty together, say “to heck with the consumeristic push for more and faster” and in our actions choose less as more. We take a half an hour to escape from normalcy and enjoy the liminal state of worship. As we have met together, all I can say is that I am beginning to understand that this practice is a means of grace. In opening our hands in the vulnerability of the fast, we leave those times feeling full. It is abundant time and space.
I have been a Christian a long time, but I love how God is never finished teaching us. I often feel like I am still just beginning in my relationship with the triune God. I am that toddler learning how to walk. The thing about toddlers is that they are constantly putting themselves in high-risk situations, but lack the wisdom to know better. Perhaps that is why Jesus so often said that we need to become like little children to enter the kingdom of God. We need to practice becoming dependent again to live into the fullness of His grace.