Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Unexpected Lesson from Fasting

Today was Fast Sunday, and also a day when I learned a very important lesson.

If you're not Mormon you're probably wondering what the heck Fast Sunday is. Once a month, we don't eat or drink for 24 hours (i.e: two meals). This sounds awful, but it serves 2 purposes: one, the money we would've spent on food gets donated to help needy people in our area, and two, we choose a special purpose to pray about while we're fasting.

In theory, I think fasting is great. You're putting your spiritual needs in front of your temporal needs, realizing your mortal weakness, and increasing your reliance on God.

Knowing this, however, doesn't stop me from getting really, really grumpy when I'm hungry. Even as a kid, I'm told I turned into a completely unreasonable little troll whenever I missed lunchtime.

An Unexpected Lesson from Fasting -- Mormons fast once a month for spiritual reasons. But even as a kid, I'm told I turned into a completely unreasonable little troll whenever I missed lunchtime. {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
If Mormons got tattoos, this would be mine.

Having had 5 kids in the last 10 years, more often than not I've got the convenient excuse in my pocket that I'm either pregnant or nursing, and therefore can't fast. But sometimes months go by after weaning a baby and I'm still not fasting because oh, um... well... I just didn't want to, okay?

It's been a crazy few months here in the Evans household, and to tell the truth I've been slacking on more than just my attitude toward a monthly fast. I've gotten my priorities pretty backward. I've been focusing on details and letting the things that really matter (my relationship with God, taking care of myself, and my marriage, to name a few) go on the backburner.

I've been thinking about this lately, but more in a passive "I observe this trend that is probably not beneficial" way than a productive "Now is the time to change!" kind of way.

Today my son was supposed to bring a globe to Sunday School for something. Trying to get him to remember on his own, I asked, "Do you know what day it is?"

"Sunday," he replied, and continued drawing. Clearly he had no idea what I was getting at.

"Do you remember anything about this Sunday that's different than every other Sunday?" I tried again.

"It's Fast Sunday?" My daughter piped in from the living room.

...Oh.

I was tempted in that moment to just skip fasting for this month. I'd completely forgotten about it until right now. I wasn't mentally prepared, I hadn't prayerfully chosen a purpose, I just had all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't fast today.

After thinking for a few minutes, I decided that I should fast. I chose a purpose for my fast and knelt down to pray about it. I admitted to God that I'd been all mixed up in my priorities lately and asked for help in sorting it out. Then I got up, showered, and got everyone ready for church.

I then proceeded to have the most wonderful church experience I've had in a long time.

Seriously, I was overflowing with joy as I listened to the messages in sacrament meeting. I was totally riveted by our Sunday School classes afterward. (Did I mention that Mormon church last for 3 hours, which is a really long time to be riveted by anything?)

When it was almost time to go home, a thought struck me: "I didn't do anything to deserve this." 

I'd had a such a spiritually uplifting church experience and such a rejuvenating Sunday, which I think was a direct gift from the Lord, but I hadn't done a single thing to deserve it  except for offering a prayer that morning repenting for my omissions and being willing to fast.

As it turned out, that's all that was necessary. I didn't have to prove myself to God. He didn't put me on probation first for a few weeks or months to show Him I really meant it. As soon as I recommitted myself to Him, he blessed me like I'd never taken a detour off the straight and narrow in the first place.

I won't pretend it was a perfect Fast Sunday and I didn't snap at my kids/husband/innocent bystanders at all today out of hunger (picture Chris Farley in the Gap Girls sketch from Saturday Night Live grabbing his friend by the collar and yelling, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"), but I was trying.
An Unexpected Lesson from Fasting -- Mormons fast once a month for spiritual reasons. But even as a kid, I'm told I turned into a completely unreasonable little troll whenever I missed lunchtime. {posted @ Unremarkable Files}An Unexpected Lesson from Fasting -- Mormons fast once a month for spiritual reasons. But even as a kid, I'm told I turned into a completely unreasonable little troll whenever I missed lunchtime. {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Luke 15: 11-32

When he decided to mend his ways, the prodigal son approached his father assuming he'd have to work his way back up into his dad's good graces. But the second he came home his father was overjoyed and threw him a big party. The scripture account focuses on the brother's feelings, so before today I never thought much about how the prodigal son himself must have felt.

I don't know if I should be comparing myself to the prodigal son here  I'm not saying I'd lost myself to debauchery and riotous living  but the same principle applied. I was turned more toward my to-do list than I was toward God.

So what started this morning as an on-the-fly decision to start fasting and stop being so obsessed with things that don't matter ended up teaching me a really important lesson: God blesses you immediately when you turn back to Him.

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