Sound good to you? It does me.
That’s why I was so surprised to hear this phrase during a teaching on fasting.
Wes Hall from International House of Prayer was addressing our congregation a couple of weeks ago right before the week of a corporate fast. Now to be honest, this fast had crept up on me unawares because I hadn’t been to service recently as I mentioned in my most recent post.
He used an illustration that I don’t think I will ever forget. He said if someone were to offer you a house full of brand new top-of-the line furniture, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get rid of the old to make room for the new? It’s the same with fasting. You are positioning yourself to receive more of God. And, doing this is “violently taking” the kingdom of heaven by force. To actively come before God to empty ourselves, myself, of whatever takes up space that God wants to inhabit.
If I was a cartoon character you would have seen multiple bells ringing all around my head …. ding, ding, ding!!! Finally, the part of me that has struggled in the past with performing to be loved and with perfectionism got the truth it needed to be set free to receive without using the bat labeled “performing through fasting to get God’s blessing” to harass myself about participating in a fast.
You see, I was in what is called a double-bind, or a no-win scenario might be a more familiar term. Before this teaching – if I fasted I was “falling back into performance and trying to be a perfect christian” (at least that is the tape I heard in my head) but if I didn’t fast I was “rebelling” against the authority at my church. Didn’t matter which action I picked I lost. Can you relate?
Boy am I thankful for the truth to set me free!
But the story doesn’t end here, it is actually just beginning.
As you know the past month has been pretty rough for me physically. But with my new found freedom I’m thinking “oh I don’t want to miss out on receiving more of God”. It doesn’t matter that at my most recent recent visit to my acupuncturist he told me “your body is literally trying to wring out the very last drop from your adrenals”. Irregardless, I’m considering pushing my body to do without. The term “self-abuse” just popped into my head. I’m not sure there is such a term, but I’m thinking I might be guilty of it 🙂 .
I get home and am praying Father – what is that You want me to fast (as our church does not dictate what a fast looks like for the individual). I’m not sure what I expected to hear, but what I did hear completely caught me off guard “I would like you to fast beating up on yourself.”
At first I laughed but as I waited to hear something else, there was silence. OK, that looks a little different than pushing myself even more physically to make it through what I would call a “standard” fast – ya think?
I honestly did not realize how much space this has been taking up in my life. Maybe it’s obvious to those around me, but until my Heavenly Father focused my attention on this habit I was oblivious to how much space it occupied in my life – space my Heavenly Father wanted to use to connect with me and fill with Himself.
The verse “taking every thought captive” just came to mind as I typed. That’s basically what my week looked like. It wasn’t that “beating up myself” magically stopped, but when it happened, I would stop myself and just say “nope, not going down that road, forgive me Father, I want to be positioned to receive from You”.
Fasting beating up myself changed the way I hear. What do I mean by that? My husband was working on a big project. He made the choice to stop working on the project to take the time to set-up a new computer-TV connection for me so I could see my NFL football anytime I want (are you beginning to get how much I enjoy football??). Without the beating up myself filter allowed to work, I could hear his actions telling me “I’m doing this because I want you to be happy”. Who doesn’t want to receive that!! He has been saying this all along with the numerous ways he cares for me. My problem was that filter distorted the message and only allowed me to hear “once again you are being a bother/burden”. OK, God – You’ve got my attention.
Fasting beating up myself changed the way I think. The thoughts below record an exchange between me and my Heavenly Father that I recorded in my journal. This exchange occurred while I was driving home after a very long day. My jaws felt locked with tension and I was feeling overwhelmed physically and emotionally while pondering Isaiah 50:7
For the Lord God will help me;
therefore shall I not be confounded:
therefore have I set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
I heard, “what if it could be different”?
I responded: How would that be Lord?
Your perspective. You are always looking at “what has to be done” rather than “I get to do this”. You are always looking ahead carrying the weight of what has to be done not only today but in the days and years ahead. What if you approached the day as “what do we get to do today Lord? When one thing is over, then ask “what’s next”, but let go of carrying all the “to do’s”.
My face has been set like a flint for sure, and the tension in my jaw very much evidences that. So much so, that I’ve not even given a voice to the cry of my heart because I have believed You’ve promised to help me to do everything so I won’t be put to shame (Is 50:7). But You have shown me as I type this that I am the one who has been adding all these years that “will help me to do everything” so I won’t be put to shame. That is NOT in the verse. I am the one who has put the conditions on “being put to shame”.
This fast You have asked of me is to quit beating up myself. This certainly is one way I have been beating-up myself. Heaping on all the to do’s for days and years to come. A burden I was never meant to carry.
Somehow “the Lord God helps me” translated to me “the Lord God helps me TO DO ________ fill in the blank”. But it doesn’t say that at all. This is such a new paradigm I’m not even sure how to express it.
I’m listening Father, speak . I’m listening heart, speak.
I want to hear what both of you have to say
Fasting beating up myself certainly positioned me to receive and it has changed my world in so many ways that I’ve decided not to break the fast 🙂 . Care to join me?