I knew it would be inevitable, and during day 1, it happened! Each of our 5 annual weeks of fasting have heightened the spiritual lenses through which I see life. Have you noticed this too? I don’t know if it is the fact that you are laying aside something important to you and replacing it with spiritual disciplines or if there is a supernatural cause for it (or a combination of both).
On Monday, I found myself on the third to last rung of an extension ladder (for someone who is deathly afraid of heights, it seems I have found myself in these palm-sweating contexts quite regularly recently…I digress!) at the early stages of our Monday off-day house project list. On this day, I experienced the same emotions I always do at this stage of project day, but it dawned on me that there is a spiritual parallel!
You see, there are 4 stages of emotions on my project days. First, there is the excitement of anticipation of the completed project. Something or someone (or both!) will be better off when this thing is complete (take for instance the better-off daughters whose toilets will no longer require the flush handle jiggle they had endured for several weeks because on this project day list “replacing the tank flappers” was on it…Man! I digressed again…strike two!). Second, there is the realization that the project will take longer, involve more tweaking, and potentially not work out the way I had envisioned. Third, there is the fulcrum where the teeter totter of “keep going” vs. “I’m out! Someone else can work on this crazy project!” teeters. Fourth – and if you have chosen wisely! – there is the “do whatever it takes so I can see this thing through to completion…and now it’s complete!” stage.
Sadly, I confess a few of the project days have ended in a poorly chosen 3rd stage teeter that have kept me from realizing the joys of a “job well done.” On this project day, however, victory was achieved!
There are parallels to our spiritual lives. We constantly face decision points. Some can be potentially life-altering…others can involve the simplicity of deciding whether to turn on Sports Center or complete my daily Bible reading. It is at these decision points we get to face the anticipation of the completed project! (Tragically, the more you choose not to engage these Christ-honoring projects, the less excitement occurs at this stage of anticipation.) We find ourselves excited about the truths we’ll discover in our reading…or the husband begins to daydream about the way his wife will respond when he decides not to go on that fishing trip with the guys and instead spend the weekend dating and pursuing his wife.
The first stage inevitably gives way to the second: we realize it won’t be as easy as we thought. The Bible reading time will involve distractions or may include a passage that is more difficult to understand than the image-only instructions of an IKEA product install manual! Or the husband’s wife responds with sarcasm to the surprise weekend re-schedule, or the weekend doesn’t play out like he had imagined.
It’s at this third stage, we saddle up on the teeter-totter. What’s it going to be? Throw in the towel or carrying on? If our decision is wrapped up in the expected outcome, then we will often slip over to the towel throwing. However, this is a key stage. You see, there is a Book that educates us with what our expectations should be. “Blessed is the man who…delights in the Law of the Lord, and on it he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) “Live with your wife in an understandable way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
Notice that God’s Word very rarely (I would argue: if ever, but I am leaving the door open in case someone brings a passage to my attention that right now is not coming to mind!) promises that our “carrying on” with thinking or behavior His Word prescribes will end up living up to our first stage expectations. And, yet, He directs us to carry on and see it through to completion. What is glorious about doing so is that the One urging this also promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28 – if you celebrate a verse like this as promising: health, wealth, and prosperity, I invite you to listen to last Sunday’s message!). There is a beautiful tension in these spiritual projects between duty and delight! If you wait for delight to occur, you will rarely begin your duty. And, if your duty is not driven by delight, duty will not last!
Okay, that’s a lot of “right thinking…” Can you see how this could apply to your own week of fasting? Let’s take this right thinking and move it to right living on this Day 2 of our week of fasting!
1. Are there any spiritual projects you are teetering on?
2. Have you quit in some areas you know God’s Word would have directed you to do otherwise? (If so, repent and correct as much as possible!)
3. Reflect on a spiritual project that was carried out, despite the challenges, and celebrate what God accomplished through it.
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)