I learned to play guitar when I was in grade school. My parents doubted my commitment, thinking it an interest that would soon pass, like my love for school. They bought me the least expensive guitar that Sears carried. I’m confident Sears gave the guitar to my parents, just to get rid of it. With that Sears guitar in hand, my dad said, “Teach yourself to play a hymn, and I’ll get you a better guitar.” That was like saying, “Win the Indy 500 in this VW Bug, and I’ll buy you a real car!”
The strings on my new guitar were nearly impossible for my young fingers to press down to form a note – “a” musical note and chords were impossible. Since this was way before the Internet, the only guitar information I had was a booklet that came with my Sears acoustic. So every day after school I’d go to my bedroom and try to figure out how to read music and how to make my guitar play those notes. Having at least a modicum of musical talent would have helped.
Finally, the day came when I was confident. Dad got home, Mom finished up in the kitchen, and then I said I wanted to show them something. With my track record, those were frightening words to my folks! They both sat down on the sofa, braced themselves, and stared at me; I don’t blame them.
I ran to my bedroom and ran back into the living room with a hymnal and my guitar. I don’t remember which hymn I chose; no doubt, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Anyway, I played the hymn all the way through including each verse, note perfect’ ish. By the end, my fingers were bleeding; that week, Dad rented an electric guitar and amplifier, and signed me up for lessons – the horrid sound of that Sears guitar was a real blessing!
Wait, you’re writing about fasting?
So what does this narcissistic story have to do with fasting? Before I answer, let’s read what Jesus said about fasting.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward…” Matthew 6:16
Jesus said, “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” He left us no elbow room. Fasting should be part of every Christian’s life. For those celebrating Lent, your fasting and abstinence from meat are already underway; I’m proud of you! For others, fasting and/or abstinence may be a new or atypical aspect of your walk with Jesus.
Fasting doesn’t need to be total self-denial of food. In fact, that can be dangerous or impossible for many people. The self-denial of food (i.e., fasting) is something you must discuss with your family doctor before trying it.
We each need to pray and ask Jesus to show us the things that have control over us. Food, TV, video games, shopping, and so forth; things that aren’t sin until they are. From your list allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to one and fast it. How long? It’s between you and Jesus.
Why fast? Well, there is that directive from Jesus we just read. Also, fasting is intended to help us hear from God. We don’t change His will by fasting, and we don’t fast to lose weight. We fast to carve out more time for us to spend in prayer and to draw closer to our God.
Oh, how does the story about my first guitar fit with fasting? Well, learning on that Sears guitar was really difficult and really painful, but I didn’t care. I was learning something I loved; I still play. Like the Sears guitar, fasting is something that can be difficult and uncomfortable, but those annoyances pale in comparison to what we gain from walking more closely with Jesus.