Fist of all, before I get into telling you about this amazing journey, I want to preface a couple of things.
#1. I am not telling you this story for any sort of glory for myself. If you only knew (and if you read this blog, you probably already do) what a lazy, undisciplined slacker I can be, you'd know I could NEVER do anything like this on my own...NEVER! I give God ALL the glory! I believe Satan has twisted the scriptures when Jesus talks about what hypocrites the Pharisees were for fasting and then bragging about it. We're so afraid of "losing our reward," that it is not even discussed among Christian circles, let alone actually practiced. As a matter of fact, if you do talk to your Christian brothers and sisters about fasting, a terror filled concern for you comes over them and they think you're crazy and they try to talk you out of it! So, we should look at Matthew 6:16 with some wisdom and not condemnation for the person who is earnestly humbling him/herself before the Lord in fasting and prayer and support them, not condemn them, judge them or for heaven's sake, not try to talk them out of it! If we never talk about it, or ever see anyone who did it and came out perfectly fine on the other side, then how will we ever encourage the Church to practice this most powerful and humbling discipline?
#2. DO NOT attempt a long fast, like a 40 day or 21 day, etc. without prayer and without lots of research on how to go about it and how to come off of it. The pastor of my church in Knoxville (Knoxville Christian Center) for 12 years, Dr. Barry Culberson, did his doctoral thesis study on prayer and fasting and taught on it often. He personally fasts anywhere from 90 to 100 days a year, so I learned A LOT of truth on the subject and saw the power of God work in so many people through fasting and prayer. So, I used great wisdom when attempting to do a long fast and am using great wisdom in coming off of it. It can be dangerous going right back to burgers and pizza right after a fast. Your digestive system has essentially been asleep for 6 weeks and needs to be awakened gradually with light soups and fruits, etc. In rare cases, people have even died breaking their fast with a heavy piece of meat like a steak! So, be VERY careful!
There are lots of good articles online that are very educational and scriptural. This is a good one. And this one. There's also a great book by the expert on fasting and prayer, Dr. Bob Rodgers of Louisville, KY, called, The 21 Day Fast (read more here). If you have medical problems, talk to your doctor about fasting.
Now, here's my story.....
I have been feeling a call from God...a little nudge or a sort of "tug" at my spirit to specifically fast for 40 days for so long I can't remember when I first felt it...it's been over a year for sure. But I was never really sure it was Him. I would say, "Ok, I'll do it." Then I would start one day and quit the next. My last attempt at the beginning of this year, I lasted 3 days and quit again. I just knew He was saying 40 days, but I just knew I could never do that. Not eat for 40 days? Nearly 6 weeks? An overweight, lazy, quitter, food addict like me? Not eat for 40 whole days? How could God call me to do that? I think I would have been more willing to do missions in the tropical rain forest than to do a 40 day fast! But my willingness, my intense and burning desire to obey God was taking over me. All through the month of January and into February, I just didn't want to eat. Food didn't appeal to me, nor did it even taste good. But even in the midst of that, there was still a 2 week period where I binged day and night on sweets and junk food. I was trying to fill that longing to please the Lord with food...and I wasn't even enjoying it.
By the middle of February, I couldn't take it anymore. I knew I had to have an answer. Was this just in my head or was it really God, calling me to something uncommon and extraordinary? So one night, while out in my (wonderful) hot tub alone, I cried out to Him and asked just that! I said, "God, I CANNOT do this if I don't know it's you. You HAVE to give me a sign and show me that it's not just something in my head. Because if this is just me Lord, I won't have the strength to do it and I'll just quit!" So I asked God for a sign. It was a beautiful, clear, starry night. The heavens were amazing that night! I decided to ask God to show me a shooting star. I said, "Lord, if you want me to do a 40 day fast, please show me a shooting star. And not just one of those streaky ones that you think, 'maybe it is, maybe it isn't.' No, Lord. Show me one right in my line of vision that I know is just for me! Make it unmistakable." I searched the sky looking for that star and didn't see one. I stayed out there for a while longer, a song with the words, "Lord, I need You today" playing over and over in my mind. I looked up at the sky and right there, in my line of vision, right next to Orion's belt, a beautiful, yellow and orange star, slowly streamed across the night sky. God made sure I saw it, and I KNEW it was for me! I gasped and raised my hands to praise Him as I began to cry. He heard me! HE saw me! And He answered my prayer. Then a quick wave of dread washed over me. "Well, here we go." I thought. "I've gotta do it now." Which was replaced by joy again, just as quickly. I mean, when God gives you a sign like that, it gives your spirit a mighty powerful boost! I mean, the God of all creation is backing me...how can I fail?
I told my husband about the sign and what my plans were. He smiled and said, "That's good honey." But he had heard this from me a million times and I never followed through, or quit just days (or hours) in. But a few days later, with a willing and humble heart, on February 8th, I began a 40 day, juice and water only fast. I was and still am unaware of why God called me to a fast. But one thing I'm trying to practice more is not always asking God, "Why?" That's not the important question. The important question is, "How can I serve You Lord?" It doesn't matter why. You just obey. So, I began with no clue as to why He was calling me. Even now that it's done, while I have a few ideas, I still don't know why He called me. And I don't even care.
Day one was great! I wasn't hungry, I drank my juice and my water and felt great....energized and on fire! Day two and day three were the most miserable of the whole 40 days! My body was craving the constant sugar and caffeine I was dumping into it everyday and I suffered with the worst headache of my life for two days straight. It was so bad that I stayed in bed for those two days! But the good news is, I expected that. One thing you can ALWAYS expect with a fast are headaches within the first 3 days. And just as I knew they would come, I knew they would pass. And they did. By day 3, the headaches were gone and now I was hungry. But I knew that would pass as well. In fact, I was only ever truly hungry 3 or 4 times during the entire 40 days. And I just remembered something I read a long time ago, that when you're hungry and you skip a meal, just imagine your body taking a meal from your gut or your hips. That's how our genius God created us! When we don't eat, we use our stored up fat deposits for energy. And I have plenty of that, so I wasn't worried about energy (I lost 36 pounds overall). I had enough to do the things I needed to do each day. I would feel a little light headed bending over, or standing too quickly from being seated, or from standing too long, but I never once felt faint or weak.
By and large friends, I can say with all sincerity that this fast was pretty easy. Well, as easy as fasting can be, I guess. Now don't get me wrong, fasting, in and of itself is difficult, or it wouldn't be such a humbling discipline. You have to completely rely on God almost every minute of the day. If for anything, to calm down your mind, because the greatest battle is there! Your mind and your flesh tell you that you should be eating. Your habits remind you that it's breakfast time, snack time, lunch time, dinner time and that you should be eating. Your favorite late night show...the one you always eat a big bowl of ice cream in front of tempts you to got to the fridge! Food is everywhere and it's wonderful! You remember the taste or the texture. You smell the smells and see it all around. And I'm a wife and mother. I still had to prepare food for my family! I was even invited to dinner several times and actually sat there, perfectly content, sipping my water while the others enjoyed their delicious looking and smelling entrees. It looked and smelled great, but I didn't want it, nor did I resent them for being able to eat when I couldn't! But friends, that's just God. I was so content and happy being so close to Him that I wouldn't have broken my fast for even the most delicious Paula Deen dessert! God gave me such strength and such grace. I remember one day, around day 16 or so, sitting in my bathroom and I was struggling inside. I was so hungry and my mind was all over the place. I was desiring to just eat. I had my head down in my hands asking God if this was really what I should be doing. And in my mind's eye, I saw that shooting star again. He was reminding me that He was with me and that He saw me, even in my struggle and that He would get me through it. And He did. I immediately thanked Him and again felt invigorated and pressed on with renewed strength!
During my prayer times and Bible study times God showed me so many wonderful revelations! I even saw a miracle or two during my fast. My husband, who was, for all intents and purposes supposed to lose his job, did not! And God assured me (with another sign no doubt) that He was going to take care of us and that I did not have to worry about a thing! He spoke to me daily through His word and through TV preachers (my two favorites are Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar...meaty stuff!), who encouraged me daily. That's one of the great blessings of fasting, the closeness you feel with God. There is nothing like it in the world. I almost didn't want to come off the fast for fear I'd lose that closeness. I have begged God to help me continue to obey Him and to stay with me. And I know He will!
One other amazing blessing is the coming off of your fast. Your first swallow of food is so glorious! You're aware in a way you may have never been before (if you've never been hungry...and let's face it, most of us haven't) what a gift from God food really is! What a pleasure He gave to us! And how we abuse it so. It's not to be abused, but to be savored and enjoyed. I thank God for food. Not because it was once my friend and comforted me when I was sad, kept me company when I was lonely, entertained me when I was bored or because it was a mindless way to pass the time. I thank God for showing me that food can NEVER be a replacement for Him. And friends, He tastes so much better! I now KNOW that I KNOW what He means when He says, "...taste and see that the Lord is good!"
I broke my fast (as my pastor always preached) with chicken noodle soup. It was warm, a bit salty and just yummy! After weeks and weeks of water, juice and watered down juice, that soup was every bit as good as a big slice of prime rib! But even better were the two or three white cheddar flavored Cheez-Its! Oh my gosh! What a taste explosion! I savored every single one! And since, I've eaten some soft, canned pears, some macaroni tossed with salad dressing, more crackers and more soup. I feel so full even though I've eaten very little! And this is the plan I'm going to follow from now on (God also told me to do this years ago, but I never listened!). To only eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. Now that I know how very little food my body actually needs, I KNOW I can continue to eat this way. The good news is, NOTHING, even the most fattening foods and sweets are not off limits, only allowed if you're hungry. And with the new level of self-control I've gained, I know I won't binge on those things again. I can eat a candy bar and actually stop half-way through and put the rest away! What freedom! And one thing I'm determined to do is NOT pick up my old soda habit. I was a Coke addict of the worst kind, sometimes finishing off a two liter by myself in one day! I haven't had a soda since February 8th and like a smoker who can't pick up another cig, or an alcoholic who can't ever take another drink, I know I can't have even one again, or I'll be right back on it! In fact, I took a sip of my daughter's Sprite and it nearly burned my mouth up! So, no more soda for me!
God has shown me that I'm NOT a loser and a quitter and that if I line up with His will and obey Him and lean into Him, He will give me the strength to do ANYTHING! I can't do anything on my own ya'll. It's all Him!
Me and G on St. Patrick's Day (day 39 of my fast)
getting ready to go to the parade downtown.
I even found a four-leaf clover....ON FLIPPIN ST. PATRICK'S DAY! WOW!
So, I just wanted to write this to thank God first and foremost for helping me in an area where I never thought I'd have victory. He has been so good to me and I love Him more now than ever!
And I wanted to encourage you, that whatever you may be hearing from the Lord that you may be hesitant or down right resistant to doing, to just trust Him and talk to Him about it. He knew how you'd react before he ever even called you, so He's not surprised!He has something glorious for you on the other side, if not just the deeper more intimate relationship with Him. If no other miracles happen because of this fast, I'm satisfied with Him and Him alone. His presence in my life is EVERYTHING to me.
I love you Lord!