I am a member of my University's Gospel Choir, and we have our bi-annual concert coming up this weekend. In order to put ourselves in the correct mindset and spiritual place for it, we are to do a week-long fast. I originally did not know about this, and when I heard we were going to fast, my mind was already revolting against the idea.
I have fasted before, and all I could think about were the hours of my stomach growling, the lack of focus, the countdown to when I could eat, my increased sensitivity to the smell of food as if it was not hard enough. The idea of intentionally putting myself through such a discomfort, even to honor God, was unpleasant.
However, this is not even the end of it. It is not only a fast from food, but one of three parts: food, secularity, and Lent style. We are to abstain from all things secular: music, movies, shows, social media, podcasts. If you can name it, we probably cannot do it, and we also are to forfeit something we love.
For some, that is meat, jeans, etc. That means, despite the plans I have made for this week, I have to put off food, give up scrolling on Facebook, backlist the shows I am following, and, since I love it so dearly, stop reading fanfiction for a week.
The thought of it was abhorrent. What am I supposed to do with my time? My day is honestly on average about seven hours of sleep, three to four hours of class, two to three hours of homework, one to four hours of extracurricular activities, and the rest of the hours are spent just reading. I love to read.
I do read published fictional books, but I do not really have access to them on campus. When I do have a physical book, I tend to blow through two in a day. Fanfiction is the only thing that can provide a constant and unending supply of fictional realities, enough material to satiate my appetite for other lives and experiences, and it inspires my own writing. The idea of giving that up itched at me.
When I had fasted in the past, I used to fill that time with the very things I must also give up now. What was I supposed to fill my time with? I honestly finished all of my homework and most of my obligations for the week the first two days of it, and I found myself sitting there, lost and with no idea of what to do. That is when I realized I was doing fasting wrong.
The idea is not to starve yourself. It was meant to deny your flesh temporarily so that you may focus on feeding your spirit. I was merely leaving myself empty with nothing coming in to fill me.
When I pray, I often feel like I am doing something wrong. Fasting comes with prayer, but I feel like I often cycle through the same dry and empty words. There is nothing new. There is no fire being lit in my heart or a rush of outpouring. I realized then something that I probably should have noticed a while back.
I am an eloquent speaker but only when I am putting on a performance, pulling on a face for the situation. At the heart of it all, I am awkward, and I always second guess what I say. I stumble words, and I cannot always express myself out loud. However, I am a writer.
When I write, I can get my feelings out. I can find the right words, and I can do amazing things with a pencil or keyboard. It is a gift, one I believe God gave me. It is a gift intended to honor Him, but also it is a tool for me to communicate and to become more self-aware.
When I write fiction, I often write experiences I have never encountered personally so that I can process, break down, and understand them, the motivations of people, the reasons behind actions, the feelings at the crux of situations because often, these things escape me. Even in non-fiction works, I can bare myself and uncover new facets that I was previously unaware of. God gave me an outlet.
If I cannot pray so well out loud because I am severely awkward, why should I not write to Him? I am better at putting my words down on paper than speaking them to the air. That is how I really decided to explore the idea of spiritual journaling. I have only just begun, but already, I am so much more comfortable with it. I am able to concretely put down my thoughts, worries, requests, and supplications. I can express myself to Him in a way I had previously struggled with, unable to speak to the One who merely wishes to have a relationship with me.
I am not substituting writing for praying verbally, but I am using it to supplement my prayer life. Maybe one will make me better at, or at least, more comfortable with, the other. I can only see it enriching my prayer life and pushing me farther along my spiritual path of growth.
Another thing I realized is that I often listen to music that makes me feel things (which I am really bad at because emotions and I do not really get each other) or that inspires my writing. I listen to music when I write, when I plan or daydream about what I want to write, or when I just really want to sing or listen to something that wakes me up on the inside.
I connect more easily through music. I have even dabbled in writing music (and raps the world will never see) since I do enjoy writing poetry when I am not writing novel-length pieces. The processing and expression of emotion comes more easily to me through music, and I have come to ponder whether it might be that God wishes to connect with me through what more easily reaches my heart.
With the option of secular music out of the way, I have decided to increase my consumption of sacred melodies. I love to sing, but when I am singing alone with others potentially nearby, my awkwardness kicks in. I am trying to find comfort and confidence in praising Him out loud. It is part of the reason why I had joined Gospel Choir. I hoped to encounter Him and to be able to do what I enjoy more: singing unashamed and, hopefully, on key.
Since I had mentioned that I cannot read what I usually do and I cannot fill the gaps in my schedule with shows, I am still reading. I am an incessant researcher as I have previously mentioned in other articles. If I have a question, I Google it and read article after article. That is what I am doing now. I am reading articles on how to meditate on the Bible, how to grow in fasting, how to pray, how to journal beneficially, how to memorize biblical verses, etc. I have also decided it is about time I really tackled the Bible.
My goal is to get through the whole Bible in a year, and I have turned to the Bible Project for aid. It is a non-profit organization that breaks down the Bible into digestible themes, story arches, and genres of writing. They make videos and articles on the vocabulary of the Bible and what you are supposed to get out of certain portions. They are a great aid, and they have a related app that breaks down the Bible into daily readings, supplemented with videos and a Psalms to meditate on. I am also subscribed to their YouTube channel and I have made an account on their website.
Since I cannot watch the shows I had lined up for this week, I have been filling my time with sermons on YouTube, particularly those of Pastor Michael Todd from Transformation Church. I am almost through his series called "Relationship Goals" which explores the godly approach to all relationships, but especially romantic and sexual ones.
I have learned a lot, like the blessing of singleness, the gift of marriage, and the power of sex, and I know there are things I must go back and re-listen to until they are in my heart and my mind. I will continue to listen to him and also probably some videos and podcasts by one of my favorite Christian YouTubers, Jon Jorgenson.
During this fast, when I feel hungry, I pray to God to give me the strength to continue. When I am bored, I read an article on picking verses to meditate on, I listen to another sermon, or I try to figure out why God or people in the Bible did what they did. I am supposed to be fasting for the concert, but I am also using this fast to work on my own personal relationship with God because I have always felt He was reaching for me as I kept sprint forward then backslide. My attention and focus kept shifting when He wanted me to choose Him, so I am working on that.
There is one amusing thing about myself that I really learned the hard way. That no matter what I do, be it reading fanfiction, watching Eureka for the third time, or listening to a Bible study, I still suck at going to bed on time.
Sleep deprivation is real, but I will conquer it. Stay blessed.