We have been fasting for more than a week now, from news and media, from certain foods and from other things too, resetting our minds and bodies from the deluge of Christmas cookies and the muddiness of media. It has been good, cleansing, and helpful. Nate and I both wrestle the two headed monster called Depression and Anxiety, and when we feast on the empty calories of food or information, we are weaker for the battle. He says to me last night as we brushed our teeth and got into bed: "Fasting is hard but it reminds me that God is our provider, redeemer, and joy." I need those reminders.
In the absence of some distractions (and the presence of a sugar/dairy/bread free mind), I've been reading more, listening more, and reflecting more on my own heart. For all the writing I do on Sayable, a casual reader might think I was adept at mining the depths of my own heart, but the raw truth is these words are more often the skimmed surface of a deep pool I fear to swim within. The past few months have troubled those waters, though, pulling me under to, as the poet said, "the thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck." I am a story-teller, we all are, and there is no better or more rapt audience for my stories but myself. I tell myself the most true or most false stories every single day of my life, and the part I tell to others is the mere tip. But the thing I want to come for (and the thing Jesus did come for) is the wreck itself and not just the story of it.
That's a painful thing to acknowledge for me. I suppose it is for any of us, but for a writer, one whose vocation it is to make things sayable, it feels more painful to acknowledge. My job is not to tell a compelling story about God or life or theology or marriage or sin or suffering: my job is to hold up all those things as simply what they are, without the embellishment of false optimism or false peace or false idealism. I am not called to make the great resolution, but to leave what God has left unresolved until he resolves it fully.
January is a time for fasting or exercising or doing or being or becoming and I suppose all of us are having these stirrings or awakenings in our souls, realizations that things are not all as they should be or could be or might be. So I wonder today, what is the Lord revealing to you today, as you fast from eating or intimacy or speaking or scrolling or socializing or numbing? In the new and quiet space, where the many-headed monsters are being silenced by your silence, what is God showing you needs to be adjusted? Left off? Walked away from? Deleted?
Fasting is good for our bodies and better for our souls. I've said elsewhere the hunger pang we feel for the thing or food or person, is there to point us to our greater and deeper hunger for God. And "what we are really longing for," Sheldon Vanauken said, "is God."