What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘fasting’?
With my religious background, my mind goes to the religious practice of abstaining from something (usually food) for spiritual purposes.
For others, maybe your mind jumps to dieting and trying to lose weight.
The other thing that comes to mind for me is Lent. That period in the run up to Easter where lots of people (religious or otherwise) decide to abstain from chocolate, or TV, or social media, or something.
I’ve never been a fan of Lent. My view has been that, if something is worth giving up, or consuming in more moderate ways, I should just do that, regardless of any arbitrary time of the year. The same goes for New Years resolutions.
Listening to a podcast a while ago with Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, gave me a fresh perspective on fasting though.
He suggested that fasting was about building a habit of saying No.
Let’s take chocolate. For most of us, in moderation, there’s nothing wrong about chocolate. And so saying No to chocolate during Lent is not because there’s anything immoral about it. But that habit of saying No builds resistance muscles for when we do need to say No to something because it is wrong or harmful or bad for us.
I thought that was a fascinating take. Fasting, viewed this way, is practising saying No so we’re prepared for when we actually do have to say No to something tempting.
And temptation is real. We all face it. There are things we need to say No to. Practicing saying No now may be exactly what we need to face some of life’s greatest temptations later.
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