Last fall God gently began nudging me about returning to the practice of fasting; something I have not regularly done since 1998! I wish I could say that this prompting thrilled my soul, but like many of you, I hate skipping even one meal. For years I have battled food addiction. I love food! This addiction was such an issue in my high school years, that when overridden with depression and self-loathing my sophomore year, I began to punish myself through the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. My punishment for feeling like a loser was to starve myself. After a few days of denying myself food, I would become crazed and eat every chip and Little Debbie cake I could get my hands on, only to follow that up with purging. When my friends found out my secret for weight loss, they thought it was a cool way to diet and even tried the purging for a bit, but it takes a truly unhealthy person to continue this vicious cycle.
Of all the counseling I received, nothing helped me more than the words spoken to me by my father. He came to me and said this, “Gina, you are at a place where you have to make a decision about the kind of person you want to be. You must decide if you want to be a weak-minded person who cannot deal with life’s difficulties, or a strong-minded person who can overcome challenges. Which do you want to be?” It was an immediate decision for me; I wanted to be a strong, healthy person. And I did quickly recover from that illness. I am not saying that mental illness or emotional instability is this easy to cure normally. This was a precious moment when a dad who loves his girl (who is much like her dad) imparted words of wisdom that helped me realize that I had a fight in me to be more than I was in that season of life. Even though I overcame the eating disorders, food continued to be a necessary evil in my life.
Now my heavenly Father was asking me the same thing: “Gina, are you willing to settle for being a weak-spirited, undisciplined Christian or do you want to experience the power and strength of Me working in your life?” Like the memory from my high school days I just described to you, I immediately knew that I wanted to experience the power and presence of God in my life that He was promising me. As God continued to nudge me about fasting He put three books in my life. One is appropriately titled, “The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie Floyd that I picked up at prayer retreat in Humboldt, TN. I only picked it up to use as reference material for my new book that I am writing on prayer, but God was going to use it for a different reason. Then my editor gave me a book to read to help me work on my writing style. In one chapter of the Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner shares the difference and similarities between how Jews and Christians view and value fasting. From her, I rediscovered the godly virtue of fasting. The third book is Lysa Terkeurst’s “Made to Crave” that I had been reading off and on since last summer. Lysa’s book speaks truth to our reasons for turning to food instead of God. Then came time for the New Year, when most determine that it is time to make resolutions about losing weight. I really did not intend on focusing on that losing proposition for 2013 so I did not spend any mental energy trying to gear up for it. Instead, I took a different approach to making a New Year’s resolution and that was to focus my 2013 year on one word, DISCIPLINE. I really want to be spiritually disciplined. As the Lord’s ministry in my life grows I don’t want to be sloppy or undisciplined because who wants to hear a spiritual message from someone who is spiritually undisciplined? I know that I don’t, and I don’t want anyone to endure that from me. This word had been on my mind for months, so I decided that DISCIPLINE would be my word of endeavor for 2013.
After reading on the subject of fasting from my three newly acquired resources, I began to think about how I might go about it. Thinking about fasting was less intimidating than actually planning to do it. Might I fast from sundown on Saturday evenings through Sunday at noon while praying for the church service? Might I choose a day like Dr. Dobson and his wife did to pray and fast for their children? Whatever I might choose I knew I would want it to become a regular practice; otherwise I didn’t think it would be effective. Recall Mark 9:29 where Jesus told the disciples that only certain spirits can be cast out through prayer and fasting (not by a single fast)? Meaning Jesus and the twelve did not break to fast a meal or for a day or so before coming back to free the boy from the demon; Jesus took care of right then. Because Jesus regularly fasted He was able to break the stronghold immediately. From this passage I find it interesting that the disciples themselves did not seem to be into fasting either, but after this experience, I am sure they looked at fasting differently. And I wanted to, too.
Then came a real game changer. Two days before the New Year My husband and I happened across an infomercial with J.J. Virgin who was talking about the Virgin Diet – Lose 7 foods and 7 pounds in 7 days. Even though she calls it a diet, it is more like a three week cleanse of sorts. She recommends that for 21 days you stop eating SUGAR (including natural sugars/honey, grapes, bananas and artificial sweeteners, i.e. Splenda, and items that convert to sugar like potatoes and carrots), NUTS (you can still eat tree nuts like walnuts and almonds), CORN (what do you think they feed cows to fatten them up?), GLUTEN (wheats, bread, white rice), EGGS (potential for salmonella), SOY (really check your labels to avoid this one), and DAIRY (goodbye to cheese). Remember this is only for 21 days, and if you find it helpful, you can make it a lifestyle. I think we are going to. I am most often asked about what I can eat? My family substituted those foods with J.J.’s list of super foods: Leafy Greens (like Kale and Collard Greens), Avocados, Berries, Coconut (we use coconut milk in our protein shakes and now cook with coconut oil), Cold Water Fish, Flaxseed, and Pomegranates. I still haven’t figured out how to incorporate flaxseed, but thankfully, Pinterest has provided a lot of good recipes for these super foods. I also realized that I could eat pinto and great northern beans, which have been a lifesaver to me during the cold winter months. If I can do this anyone can. My family of three has used the Virgin Diet for the past 30 days. My daughter and I both have lost 12 pounds each, and my husband has lost almost 30 pounds! That is almost 55 lbs people!!!
Now why is this important when it comes to fasting? Well, because I had spent about four weeks on the Virgin Diet and retraining my mind about food, it had become less of an obsession for me. The things I now eat keep me full and I am not driven by my mad cravings for fast food and junk food (thanks mostly to my breakfast protein shake). With the absence of the cravings, I can make rational, DISCIPLINED decisions about my food choices, so I do. I have been able to eat healthy 99% of the time. For the 1%, that is when I am at special occasions, like a Super Bowl gathering enjoying “choice” foods with others. The key of discipline for me is that I can indulge in a piece of cake or a slice of pizza and then return to my healthy eating habits without the pull to eat those “choice” foods 24/7. This is the form of discipline that I am seeking. So last Thursday morning while I was spending some time with the Lord, He tapped me again about fasting. I felt that because I have done well with my new eating habits, I could manage to go a day without eating. A few years ago, this would have brought tears to my eyes, as I could not even refrain from food long enough to fast for a doctor’s appointment. But suddenly feeling free from the stronghold of food, I decided I could do it, and I did. I fasted a full day on Thursday. By evening my prayers felt so much more compassionate for those I prayed for, too.
From this experience I realized that when I am actively living in discipline to my eating habits, I am able to fast. Please hear my heart – this is not an attempt to puff myself up to the readers of this blog, but an honest discovery that I have made about myself that I believe is worth sharing. I believe this same principal can be used for other areas of spiritual discipline. Could it be that when we have our spending habits under control, we tithe better? God began to nudge me toward fasting; He then placed a couple of helpful resources in my path that further opened my mind to fasting. After that, He gave my heart the desire for spiritual discipline. And lastly, He hooked me up with a diet that would end all of my unhealthy cravings. All these things that God did for me over the past few months helped set me up for a return to fasting. God certainly equips us for what He calls us to. He completely disarmed the enemy in my eating habits to call me to a deeper walk. Praise His name!