Finding Rythm: Getting Off Autopilot
School is starting again. Every fall we stock up on school supplies and we make the transition from lazy summer days to the structure of alarm clocks and homework. There is a rhythm to this life. Seasons of drought and seasons of plenty. Slow seasons and busy ones. Lately I’ve been chewing on the concept of fasting. It’s not a uniquely Christian concept, but the Bible has lots to say about it.
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-18 NLT
I’m drawn to the experience of fasting on a regular basis, but not for dietary reasons. In reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster I came across this quote,
“The constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation (pg. 47).”
Food, an unlikely idol. Nope, I don’t think that’s me, I thought to myself.
But do I love a good cup of coffee, or a savory dinner, or a sweet snack more than Jesus? This led to another question, am I willing to give these things up for a time? That little tug of hesitation in my heart was very telling. So I began experimenting with fasting. I’ll give up food for half a day. I’ll neglect social media for a day. I’ll wake up an hour earlier to read and pray. I’ll fast from clothes shopping. I’ll give up…(gasp)…coffee for a day. I tried little bits at a time to see how my heart & mind would respond.
What I found was surprising and can be summed up concisely with Foster’s words,
“More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us (pg. 55).”
So, I’ve heard the sisters say, “I need Coffee + Jesus.” And that’s cute and funny and it FEELS true sometimes. [My brain doesn’t function well before caffeine.] But let it not be the truth!
I found that the idea of consumption, or rather over consumption, has taken root in many areas of our culture. A sneaky deception in the land of plenty. I live in DFW where it is most assuredly true. Literally any restaurant, any type of entertainment, any clothing store, any sports league is readily available.
I recently watched the movie The Zookeeper’s Wife and was reminded of the horror and poverty of Nazi Europe. Food and hope were scarce. Evil seemed to be overwhelming. That period of time was starvation on every level, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
When I defer a meal to spend time in Gods word I am not starving myself. But it’s amazing how often my thoughts cycle back to food, or whatever I chose to fast from that day. This is what it sounds like this in my brain:
“Oh, the kids are eating a snack I’ll have a bite too, oops. Let me just check this bit of info on Facebook real quick so I can plan for the day, oops. Ok, for real Jesus, you are better than apple slices and peanut butter. You are better than all the cute pictures of my friends’ kids on the first day of school.” Sounds silly to say out loud, but essentially that’s what was happening.
I discovered my brain is on autopilot–overconsumption autopilot. I don’t even think about it! Now, I’ve been intentional to incorporate fasting (food & other things I’ve found to have control) into my regular rhythms for a while. Now I notice my body craving a season of LESS instead of more. It’s an interesting shift. But in a culture of such abundance we have to be intentional to create space for seasons of denial. I realize I should spend some time away from my phone and let the emails pile up and make eye contact with my children and listen to their stories and chats. I’m discovering the Lord blesses these efforts to fast from overconsumption autopilot, and in many ways it frees me up to dwell in the more meaningful parts of life.
I’m finding that it’s a good and holy thing to have seasons of plenty & of want; to get off autopilot and find real rhythm.
“This is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.”