By: Landon Collins
During this Lenten Season the staff is fasting and praying for connectivity and community in Earlysville. I pray that in sharing this, it does not come across in any way like one of the Pharisees who wanted to boast about what they were doing. I am sharing our practice as an invitation to join us. Our hope is that through this practice we might better understand God’s heart for our community.
As Barbara mentioned last week, fasting just to say you are fasting is a bad idea. You will be hungry for no reason, which is not fun, and you will miss the spiritual significance of this Spiritual Discipline. According to Adele Calhoune in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook the goal of fasting “is to let go of an appetite in order to seek God on matters of deep concern for others, ourselves, and the world.” We believe community connectivity in Earlysville is a “matter of deep concern.”
Fasting is also not a magical way to get God to answer our prayers. Or as Calhoune puts it, “it’s not a magical way to manipulate God into doing our will: it’s not a way to get God to be an accomplice to our plans. However, I don’t believe this means we cannot pray specifically for things while fasting.
Each week I play football with guys from the community. I love to be active, I enjoy being with people out of the office, and I feel called to connect with people in the community. Sitting upstairs in an office next to Barbara all day gets old. Over the last few years I have tried to be intentional about building deep relationships with some of these guys. I will often pray for opportunities to share my faith and life with them in very small ways. One of these guys, we will call him Jim, has become a person of peace. You might remember in Luke 10, when Jesus sends out the seventy-two in pairs, He tells them “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5-6) Mike Breen describes a person of peace as “one who is prepared to hear the message of the Kingdom and King. (It is a) person is ready to receive what God will give you to say at that moment.” I felt like Jim was perhaps ready to hear whatever God might give me to say.
I have been intentionally praying for Jim the last few weeks, and on the day we were fasting as a staff, I had an opportunity to connect with Jim. Knowing this ahead of time, I used my fast that day to try to connect with God’s heart for Jim and pray for an opportunity in our conversation to share whatever God might give me. My wife, Erin, was even praying for this opportunity. I was both nervous and excited about getting together, which I think is appropriate. You want to know what happened …. absolutely nothing. We got together, had some great conversation and some fun, but there was no mention of God and I walked away a bit disappointed. All of this build up, nudges from God in the days leading up to our connection, intentional prayer from both my wife and I, and even fasting, seemed all for naught.
Now we all know that’s not the case. I fully believe God was at work though everything that went on regardless of any outcome. You see, fasting isn’t some magical way to manipulate God. Fasting is a way to be with God. As I have reflected on that experience, I know I was with God. What a wonderful adventure it was.
This season of Lent as we practice whatever discipline we have felt God laid on our hearts, I pray we would understand that it isn’t about getting God to do something. The Disciplines are about being with God so that when God does do something, we get to be a part of it in a special and unique way. These disciplines aren’t for God, they are for us. May we be transformed.