It’s 7 pm and the doctor has ordered me to fast, so that blood-work may be taken and tested first thing in the morning. So I fast from food and keep hydrated with water, knowing that 12 vials of blood tomorrow will necessitate being super-hydrated. Why does the doctor order the fast, you might wonder? He does so to get a baseline account of where I am with no influencing values created by eating certain foods. You see, some foods could elevate certain numbers, causing the doctor to be more aggressive in treatment than necessary. Thus, a baseline value gives a known measure or position to calculate or locate something. (Merriam Webster)
Along the same lines, there are times in our family life and personal life when we need to fast from something to measure or locate something else. It is beneficial. It is telling–keeping our hand on the pulse of our own life and the lives of our loved ones.
Personally and recently, I have fasted from both caffeine and sugar. The first three days are difficult and trying. I get headaches. I am grouchy. I start feeling the lack and begin to edge on desperation. Then the fourth day arrives and generally, I find that I am feeling lighter, freer and better than I had been feeling in months. For a time, I may fast from either or both, and often my energy level increases, my metabolism increases and my mental capacity is clearer.
I have also fasted from food for a day or two over the past few years. It is a time, when I dig deeper into God’s Word and seek Him specifically for better understanding regarding deep concerns I may have. I hear God better when I fast–there is just less clutter in my mind, when my diet is composed of His Word and liquids (water, broth and juice) Fasting is a very good personal choice for a time in every person’s life. By the way, I highly recommend this free resource, if you are considering a food fast: Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer by Dr. Bill Bright
As a family, there are times (at least two weeks every year, sometimes more) when I begin to feel and sense things getting out of balance: tempers flaring, fighting, rudeness, lack of focus, lack of close community and the like. Every time I sense it, I begin to let them know a technology free week is coming. I prepare their minds and hearts in advance. Then I set the dates and times. My Chris and I are specific about the things from which we are fasting (we call it unplugging), like television, electronic games, PlayStation and Wii. We are also specific about how we will fill the void: reading, radio, CD’s (they all LOVE Adventures in Odyssey and get disks from the library), board games, puzzles, outdoor activities, family projects, friends and field trips.
The first couple of days are very difficult. They struggle and have withdrawals. They are grumpy, edgy and whiny. I get on the edge of desperation and wonder why I had to go and make this our unplugged week. You could say my resolve is weakened. By about the third day, I begin noticing interactions between our four children. They are reading to one another–without being asked to read to their sibling! They are playing board games. They are making forts out of boxes and pretending. The rude behavior and temperamental attitudes have diminished greatly. By the fifth day, they are asking when we can get back to mom reading aloud the story we are working through and can we play such and such board game after supper or can we walk to the park and play catch!
I am not suggesting that we hit perfect family status as our baseline. No, but we begin to see and locate what is going on in the hearts of our children–finding that the pulse of our family is vital to the outworkings of everything else we do individually. It takes a little extra work on our part, as parents. It takes more of our own focus, too, which is unfortunately often distracted by many things. But it gives us a sense of where we are as a family and how we can be a community that cares for and loves each other. With all the influential noise eliminated, we begin to see and hear and understand more clearly. For us, it works as a family.
Perhaps you already live in this place all the time. Well that is a wonderful way to live! However, we like to watch television and play electronic games and such. It is part of what we do, as a family. But like everyone, we can get out of balance. To find the balance, you need to get back to the baseline. Then you can rightly gather the known measure to calculate or the position to locate where your heart is.
For friends, where your heart is abiding indicates the treasure. And the treasure? Well, sometimes the treasure is an idol that needs to be taken down and put in its rightful place. Then freedom and fullness abounds!