Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Quarantine as Fasting

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash
Lately, I feel a bit like a lot of things in my life have been stripped away. 

I can't go to work in my office.  I can't drive my car.  I can't take the kids to park to play tennis.  I can't see my friends or go to church in person. I haven't seen our youth leaders or the faces of our teens in several weeks. 

I miss good coffee!!  I miss movies, chips and salsa, and my co-workers. I miss walking along the boardwalk by the bay. 

The hard part is that I haven't chosen to stop doing these things per se.  In many ways, I have, since I want to do my part to help flatten the curve of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  I want to help save lives and keep my grandparents from harm.  But in other ways, it feels like so many outside forces have taken away our usual way of living, both for the good of humanity and with the challenge that it brings.

As Americans, we are so used to getting what we want right now.  We can go to almost any store or restaurant within 20 minutes and buy whatever we are craving at that moment.  If we can't, then we'll just order it on Amazon.

The quarantine that I've experienced for the last 16 days has reminded me a lot of fasting.  The general definition of fasting is to abstain from food for a period of time as a religious observance.  In my years of youth ministry, we've often participated in something called the 30 Hour Famine.  We would spend 30 hours without food in order to participate in mission activities and raise money for hunger around the world.  The famine always brought up mixed emotions in my mind, because I love food.  It's one of my comfort things, and without it, I get a little on edge. 

As it turns out, the famine was one of my favorite events each year.  When we gave up food, we noticed that our other senses were heightened.  We'd notice the beautiful buds on the trees and the sound of the birds waking us up.  We spent extra time in prayer, giving the time to God, and He would always have a lesson for us to learn in it.  The fast always felt like a cleansing, a re-set of sorts. 

The quarantine has felt a bit like this.  I'm noticing beautiful things that I hadn't taken as much time to notice.  The beautiful cherry blossom trees in my neighborhood.  The kisses and hugs from my four year old.  My husband's cooking up random recipes from things we have in the pantry. The laughter of our family as we play UNO together. (And the inevitable sibling fighting that comes with it!)

The Bible has many examples of people who fasted for various reasons.  Many fasted before or during an important event, in order to turn their minds toward God and make wise decisions.  Ezra 8:22-24 is an example where those going into battle prayed and fasted in order to ask for God's protection.

I love verse 23:  "So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer." 

Here, Ezra's group would be traveling without military escort, and the road through the western Persian empire was very dangerous. 

Covid-19 poses many dangers to us as individuals and as a society.  We can choose to complain and be unhappy with the gift of each day, no matter how hard it may be, or we can choose a response like Ezra's.  We can think of the stripping away of our usual routines as a fast that we will give over to God.  We can choose to use this time of fasting from things and busyness and our favorite foods to stop and earnestly pray that our God will take care of us

God sees us in the midst of all that we are going through, and, as He did with Ezra, He will hear our prayer.

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