Mini fasts

Mini fasts

Written on 02/27/2020
Conor Sweetman

Skipping lunch to find the slow and generous lifestyle of Jesus

Written by Conor Sweetman

About once a week I find myself walking to work uninhibited by a lunch bag awkwardly dangling from my side as I mount the treacherous parking-lot snowbanks. My desk is visibly clearer without my leftover spicy sausage pasta competing for room in my cubicle.

Normally when noon rolls around my stomach snarls, and I anticipate a half-hour break from work when I can enjoy my podcasts in peace while dolloping chili sauce onto whatever I have in my bag. Once a week, however, I find my desk empty with nothing to microwave.

On these Thursdays I am trying out a small, self-imposed ban on lunches. I skip lunch and go for a walk near my workplace instead, often taking the time to think and pray.

As I sub out my spoon and fork for my winter boots and the brisk wind, these small moments have become a double-edged experience, where I am both hungry and clear-headed, wanting food, yet finding peace.

Each Thursday I wake up trepidatious and excited by what the hunger pangs might lead me to in terms of spiritual food. Will the small rebellion against my chicken and rice leave my heart soft enough for a word from God? Will my waiting to have my egg-mushroom-ramen until tomorrow leave my soul raw enough for conviction? This is my small version of the fasting that we hear so little about in these discipline-depleted times.

This practice is not motivated by criticism of the cultural practices of the modern Canadian Church. Instead it comes from a recognition that I am fueled by my hungers in a way that can be uncomfortable when compared with the teachings and lifestyle of Christ.

I’ve been enjoying the new books recently put out by John Mark Comer (The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry) and Jefferson Bethke (To Hell with the Hustle). They’ve got me thinking about our frenetic urges toward self-gratification.

Comer beautifully introduces the slow and generous lifestyle of Jesus into our modern psyche, asserting, “Ultimately, nothing in this life, apart from God, can satisfy our desires. Tragically, we continue to chase after our desires ad infinitum. The result? A chronic state of restlessness or, worse, angst, anger, anxiety, disillusionment, depression—all of which lead to a life of…overload, which in turn makes us even more restless.”

Though these books focus on the spiritual practices of silence, Sabbath, and taking a stand against the cultural drive to run our souls ragged on busyness, they make it clear there are a variety of hungers that haunt us constantly, the latent drives that fuel our wild grasping for pleasure and significance.

As I take my Thursday walk around the building, the midday hollowness of my stomach reminds me I am not made solely for satisfaction. Christ intends to meet me in my hunger, waiting, and wanting. My efforts will fall short in the face of my dust-made identity, but the Imago Dei in me will ultimately be satisfied on a day I do not yet know.

Until then, missing lunch one day a week can remind me of something culture wouldn’t otherwise tell me: even when our desires are desperate, we can find a unique communion with Christ when we deny our flesh, even if it’s just lunch.