Fasting Soul Noise

Fasting Soul Noise

It all started one Wednesday. A group of my friends were discussing the idea of fasting “criticism.” We’d just read an excerpt[i] by author Catherine Marshall on the topic. God impressed on her that she had a critical spirit and was to give it up for one whole day.

Objections crowded her mind. What about righteous judgment? But God brushed her resistance aside. “Just obey Me without questioning: an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

fasting frees the mindAt first she felt empty, as if her personhood had been erased. Around the lunch table with her talkative family, topics concerning the judicial system and the institutional church emerged and she had to suppress her barbed comments. It seemed that no one missed her penetrating observations! She didn’t understand what God was doing…

For many of us, fasting is an underdeveloped spiritual discipline. As Lent approaches, some people think about fasting rich food, TV, and of course chocolate.

fasting worryBut have you ever thought of fasting negativity? It won’t work without intentionality. Not only do you have to watch your stream of thoughts. You have to take action, like reversing every critical thought by praying for that person or situation instead. With “That Difficult Person,” you might have to make a list of positive things about him or her and read it out loud daily.

But here are some other ideas that came up in our group.

–If you are obsessing about a certain loved one or an unresolved situation, try to fast worrying. Catch yourself in the act, take the thoughts captive, and declare God’s goodness and power to affect change. As author Ann Voskamp says, stop living as though life is an emergency.

–Try fasting the little shopping trips to buy something—anything—as a fix to feel good. It’s not about the money. It’s about the need.

fasting road rage–Maybe you get agitated in traffic. Fasting road rage can take some practice. Try putting some worship music on and leave fifteen minutes earlier. Pray for the guy who drives like a grandma.

–One friend struggled with selfishness, and considered having a focused period of time where he put his wife first and thought about her needs. The Holy Spirit can plant all kinds of ideas for action here.

Fasting unwanted advice–Several friends said they needed to fast from giving their teenage or adult children unsolicited advice. Ouch! The idea was to be a better listener, or as my friend Sharon said, “Listening in order to hear, instead of listening only to respond.”

fasting negativity toward spouse–Many in the group committed to fasting a critical spirit toward their spouses…arresting those snarky comments murmured under the breath…surrendering annoyance with the way they do the dishes or that they aren’t bothered by their messy desk.

fasting hurryWhat came up for me was the idea of fasting “hurry.” Lately, my goal is to be present wherever I am—not living future or past—but fully engaged in the moment. Hurry works against this in every way. I unconsciously ramp up to face the To Do List. I drive a little too fast. I eat on the run. I’m getting through life but not living it.

Ann Voskamp said it beautifully…

You’ve got to figure out a way to stay awake to your one wild and beautiful life…How many moments of our lives have our eyes been wide-open—but we’ve been rushing, racing, sleeping right through? How many of the popsicle days and run-and-twirl-and-spin days? How many of the moments of melting ice cream and crazy laughter and dangling bare feet and the sun setting low, igniting the wonder of now?

fasting rushing“Someone—wake us up! To the beating of wings and splashing of water, the settling of fog at twilight…do you hear me whispering to you? How do we start believing that life can be carried only in the hands of the unhurried…a bubble held in awe.”[ii]

I must stop wolfing down my one sacred life! Hurry is my enemy. I need to fast this lethal habit beyond Lent and into eternity.

And another thing…as I discussed these ideas with my husband, he piped up and said, “I know something else you need to fast…” Oh great—here it comes. “You need to stop saying ‘sorry’ all the time.” His words rang true.

fasting unnecessary apologiesOften, I say sorry in regard to things that aren’t really my fault—“Sorry your car got stuck on the ice in my driveway.” Other times, I say it, but I’m not really sorry. Like: “Sorry I left you the dirty dishes.” Smirk.

It’s an unconscious pattern, and I need to look deeper. The root may be a low-grade form of self-condemnation. I’d rather save the word for situations where an apology is really important.

A week has passed and I’ve “failed” with the sorry fast at least seven times! Sigh. Awareness is the first step. I can try again tomorrow! Still, I’ve been more successful with giving up hurry.

fasting leads to hearing GodAnd as for Catherine Marshall, something surprising happened that day she fasted criticism. For several years she’d been praying a bit negatively for a young man who had lost his way. That afternoon, she says, “a specific, positive vision for (his) life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it—joy!”

The point is this—when we clear the deck of our stifling habits, God breaks through the soul noise to speak to us, giving us clarity, creativity, freedom, and so much more.

What do you need to fast?

______________________________

[i] Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin, 2000, pg. 58.

[ii] Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters, by Ann Voskamp, 2012, pg. 6.

Comments

  1. WOW
    just WOW

  2. Love this. So powerful,

    Jim

  3. You’re exactly describing what Scripture directs. 2 Corinthians 10:5 directs us to put our thought life under Christ’s control, and Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us how we are to change, putting off the old, renewing, and putting on the new. He reminds us that His intention for us his to please Him by conforming to the image of His Son in Romans 8:29. We’re never lacking guidance, are we? Just motivation and the will to surrender. That was a good post, illustrating the concept really well. Thank you, Susan!

  4. Hi Susan! This is perfect timing as I have been working on having a less critical spirit and my word for the year is Compassion. I’ve been meditating on the verses in the Bible dealing with compassion and praying that God will fill me with love and compassion instead of having a critical spirit. One of my favorites is Psalm 103:4 -” who (God) redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion.” God then gave me an image of the Irish Claddagh ring! I’ve asked my husband for a Claddagh ring for Valentine’s Day;-)
    Love your posts! Blessings, Kari

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