Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let's Persevere in Fasting

I have been trying to take action against trafficking by fasting regularly.The A21 Campaign suggests fasting on the 21st of every month as one of their 21 Ways to Help. I am really, really committed to this idea. It seems to me a good way to make the whole thing personal, root it deeply in my heart. However, I overlooked one small problem with this proposal in my enthusiasm. I suck at fasting. No, really, I am terrible at it. I commit and recommit to fasting all the time and then fall apart just a short way in to the effort.

So on the first day of fasting from freedoms, I decided I would not go to the bathroom without asking my husband's permission first. Let me say this most important thing first: Y'all, I have a husband who will grin and consent to doing these crazy things I ask of him because he gets me and the things my wildly passionate heart prompts me to do. That's pretty awesome, right?

So the day commenced with his welcoming my reluctantly articulated request. I still get shy about making myself so vulnerable even though he never once, even when there was good reason, has made me feel foolish about something important to me. And then we moved on. The first time I needed to head to the little girl's room, I was sitting by the river reading the Word and journaling. I realized I was going to need to hurry. Stopping to ask his permission was going to make this a close call. And then I remembered that my father-in-law was sitting there in my house and would be privy to this conversation. And I hesitated even longer. If it's hard to risk appearing silly to my beloved, who is always so understanding about my wild ideas and strong passionate responses, I could not even imagine doing so with my father-in-law present. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a lovely man, but I'm not really ready to bare the mist vulnerable parts of my heart and soul to him just yet.

So by the time I finally made my way home to abashedly ask my husband's permission, I was doing the three year-old's potty dance. He smiled and give me his consent as I whispered my first sheepish request. I wanted to feel satisfied by this commitment I had made. I wanted to think profound thoughts about attempting to live in solidarity with trafficking victims who are denied basic freedoms like this every day. I didn't. I hated it. I felt stupid and foolish and raw and bared to the world. And it made we want to cry. (I told you, I'm REALLY bad at this.)

The next time I needed to go, my husband was on his way to the bank in the city. Driving in the car. With his dad. Same issue. Which for some reason was harder for me to commit to over the phone because I couldn't whisper it quietly right at the entrance to the bathroom with a blush in my cheek that my husband would know indicated my vulnerability and would respond to in love and with respect. So I cheated and went without asking.

The same mental battle ensued the rest of the day. And I didn't cheat again. But I didn't feel very inspired or successful in my efforts either. I felt foolish and weak. The next time I fasted, I decided I was going to drink water using only my cupped hands that day. I lasted an hour. (This is the craziness my family has to put up with. Y'all can add not having to live with me to your gratitude lists tonight.) I know the Bible tells us to fast in secret, and I try, but we're together in close quarters, all the time. They notice.

I have been fasting from mass produced chocolate these last weeks too, and while I haven't caved and eaten any, I will admit that the thought of trick or treat bags filled with Reese's peanut butter cups and snack sized Snickers almost brought me to tears yesterday. My flesh continues to crave, begs me to forget injustice and just feed me what feels good.

But as I have made the effort and felt the sting of my weakness, I think I have come to realize that this, this is the point of it all. We fast to be reminded of how weak we are in the flesh, how denying ourselves the smallest things makes our flesh writhe and rage against our spirit. And we know for certain the work we need to do and just how dependent we are on the mercy of our Savior.

What does all that do for trafficking victims? Well, first of all, it reminds me that the sense that it is all too big and that there is so little I can do, is real. And it brings me back to heart of the matter. If I want to make the world a better place, I have to look to Him first. The better place is the place where His kingdom has come, not mine. Which is good, because if the perseverance I show in fasting is any indication, mine would remain half-finished for eternity.

Secondly, it reminds me that their suffering is real. These little contrived fasts are a trifle compared to the reality that is life for a human slave, a little girl sold as a sex machine. And I find them hard and humiliating and fail to live them. And this keeps me praying, begging Him to save and rescue and heal these real people suffering real horrors.

Thirdly, it motivates me to try and try again. To remember that spiritual fruit is born in the working out, the long-suffering, the persevering effort at sanctity. Just as the results of action against trafficking will also bear fruit over the long length of days we remember, we pray, we fast, we fight.

And lastly, it reminds me that sometimes it is okay to admit our limitations and scale back. Perhaps drinking water out of my cupped hands was a bit overzealous? Maybe today I can just drink only water? Or skip my coffee? Or eat simply? And accept that if the effort is sincere and the prayer it inspires real, it is enough. Just as it is with this work, this action effort. I don't think I am changing the world all at one time. But I am making  progress in my own heart, in my own awareness. I am giving many friends a chance to join the action. I am making connections with others who are fighting too. And I am sincerely trying and earnestly praying. And it is enough.

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