Nancy Goodnight column: Three-day fast wasn’t too long for one Enochville teacher
To fast or not to fast...that is the question.
Somehow I have managed to steer clear of fasting during my Christian walk over the past 29 years. Whether it was due to church, time or circumstance, it just never seemed to be personal enough to catch my attention. In fact, the only time I semi-seriously considered fasting was after meeting a colleague at a conference and watching him expressing his faith through fasting as the rest of us ate hand over fist the entire week! I was so impressed, I wanted to do it too. Unfortunately my reason for fasting at that point was thinking it would be a good way to jump start my non-existent diet! Fortunately, after talking about my plan with several sisters in Christ, I realized just how wrong I was and that fast never happened.
Several weeks ago our pastor started talking about a church-wide fast. It piqued my curiosity and I listened a little more intently to the Biblical reason for fasting. It was the first time I had really heard how closely fasting and prayer are related in Jesus’ call to His believers. Pastor Rob went on to lay out the Biblical call to fasting and encouraged each of the church members to consider joining him on a 3-day fast. When he talked about the supernatural power of fasting and the opportunity it gives for spiritual growth, I felt a deep desire building to join the fast.
Like many of you, my life is a whirlwind, trying to fit in all the demands of being a good wife, good mother and full time teacher. I seem to spend a good bit of my prayer time lifting up prayer requests for myself and others, all the while yearning for a closer relationship to my Savior but feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life. The fast seemed like a way I could sacrifice myself by giving to God in a purposeful way. So, I decided I was going to do it.
Now I will tell you, deciding to fast and actually doing it are two very different things! Before I even began, I started to worry about being able to finish. In fact, I worried so much that I talked to Pastor Rob about my fears before I began. My biggest worry came with the “no caffeine” clause. I assumed this fast was to be only water for three days. Being a teacher that desperately relies on caffeine to survive the day, I wanted clarification on this point before beginning. I actually asked the Pastor if I thought I was in danger of inflicting harm on a student due to caffeine withdrawal would God understand and let me have my daily Diet Coke. Pastor assured me that fasting is a personal journey and God is with me all the way so He knows my needs before I do.
With that encouragement and the encouragement of my family and a special friend, I began my journey through fasting, And I purposely call it a journey because it was so much more than not eating for three days. The first day I was good until the caffeine headache and hunger pangs hit in the afternoon, that was when I began earnestly praying through every spare moment. I vaguely remember praying for the pains to go away, but more importantly I remember praying for forgiveness of my sins because I wanted to give myself over freshly to the pain and feel it, knowing that Jesus had suffered so much more to cleanse me of that same sin.
Day two was the worst. I woke to Mandissa’s “Good Morning” while the hunger pains and headache were calling me to get back under the covers and sleep or head to the Hardee’s drive through for a biscuit breakfast. I lifted up my pains and worry over to God and I felt His presence reassuring me that I could do this. The verse “I can do all things through He who strengthens me,” just kept reverberating through my mind. I have to admit Pastor’s encouragement helped too, especially when he said, “Do not dare quit!” This is the day I became acutely aware of how my mood and actions affect others. I prayed for God’s peace in what I was doing because teaching all day did not seem to jive with a fasting Mrs. Goodnight. Somehow (supernaturally, I dare say) I not only made it through the school day but actually had a really good day with lots of learning going on. After leaving school, I hurried home for a nap in the hopes it would provide a respite from the headache and stomach pains that just would not quit. Somehow (supernaturally, I dare say) I woke up with just enough time to get to our nightly prayer meeting coinciding with the fast.
I entered the prayer meeting with an open heart and mind, feeling an almost palpable closeness to God. I felt just like Pastor Rob had said I would, I had literally starved the old me and allowed a new
me to be open for God’s direction and Will for my life. I went into the meeting with specific things I wanted to pray over, but it all seemed unimportant in the presence of the Holy Spirit in that room. As I praised the Lord through worship and praise music, I simply opened my palms to heaven and waited for God to share whatever He wanted for me. WOW! It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever had as a Christian. He made Himself clear and urged me to give up all my worries and fears to Him. He also clearly reminded me to be happy, thankful, praiseful and humbled just where I am because He has filled me with the Holy Spirit and that is all I need to be joyful, thankful and humbled right where He has put me, doing what He has called me to do. I left the service with a peace enveloping me and noticed as I was driving away that somehow (supernaturally, I dare say), my headache and hunger pains were gone.
The final day of the fast was incredibly easy. The peace continued to cloak me, the pains never returned and I prayed the day away. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t’ think about my “break-fast” meal, but interestingly, I spent much less time than the day before when all my thoughts seemed to revolve around eating. As the fast ended, just like Pastor Rob warned, I almost felt a let down. It’s like when something really good happens and you ride the wave of adrenaline and excitement but it eventually wanes and things return to normal. I don’t want the fast to be a once and gone experience, so my time with God now includes a prayer of thanks for the experience, a plea for continued peace, joy and humility. Just feeling His presence is all I need!
P.S. and will tell you now that it’s over, that Ichiban’s never tasted quite as good and that Party House iced pound cake waiting for me is gonna be might tasty too!