I’m trying to fast from certain things during Lent. I still consider myself to be Junior Varsity when it comes to fasting, but I’m growing in my understanding of Jesus’ words: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, where Jesus was drawing on an ancient Hebrew tradition of viewing God’s words as food—e.g., Ezekiel 3:3, Jeremiah 15:16). So somehow, learning to fast means learning to allow the words of God to fill me in place of food (or whatever else I’m fasting from). Here are 3 ways I’m learning to experience this…
Anticipate it. I can close my eyes and picture it: a fresh lime, being squeezed over sizzling grilled shrimp. It’s an Applebee’s commercial, for crying out loud—not exactly gourmet dining—but I’m actually salivating as I type this. Let’s face it: eating can be so enjoyable that we dream about it, anticipating that first bite. What would it mean to anticipate God’s Word like that? There are mornings when I’ve intentionally blocked out time; the house is quiet; the coffee is hot (not fasting from THAT); and I’m like a kid about to open his first present on Christmas morning. I often pray Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things in your law.” It’s not like that every morning—I wish it were—but I’ve found that when I come hungry and expectant, I see things in Scripture that I never saw before.
Savor it. I come from a family of fast eaters. What can I say? We really like food, and when it’s hot and ready, we go for it. But over time, I’ve learned the joy of savoring a meal. Even, occasionally, putting my fork down between bites (superhuman restraint!). Slowing down truly heightens the enjoyment of a meal. And it’s like that with Scripture. I know, it’s easy to fly through a 3-minute reading on your way out the door…but it doesn’t do much good. Jesus said that we can live on “every word that comes out of God’s mouth.” Think about that: Every Word. So slow down—linger over every word in a biblical passage—underline things—circle things—think about how this thing Paul wrote here connects with that thing Moses said back there, and how it all affects you personally. There’s so much flavor there, and when we wolf it down we miss most of the good stuff.
Share it. I don’t mind eating alone, but there’s something about a family-style spread: everyone reaching, passing, sharing, gushing over this flavor or that. Reading God’s Word is similar. When we do it with others—whether in a planned small group gathering or impromptu with a friend in the car or a spouse over morning coffee—it’s richer. You will see things that I don’t, and vice-versa. And speaking of the social element of food…it’s common to mock people who post food pics on Instagram or Facebook. But isn’t it just another way of sharing the joy of eating? Sometimes the very appearance of a meal is just too beautiful not to share. And in Scripture, sometimes God gives me a beautiful morsel of truth that’s so beautiful that I feel compelled to Tweet, post, or blog it. And unlike that photo of my Applebee’s Mojito Lime Shrimp, which may tempt you to hate me, sharing the Word enables you to join in the feast with me.
When we fast, at Lent or any other time, it’s easy to forget that the main benefit is not in what we’re giving up; it’s in the One we’re making room for. And I’m finding that the words of Scripture can actually fill me and satisfy me more deeply than food. Through the written Word, we have this mysterious privilege of encountering the living Word…and being filled with the Bread of Life. Bon appetit.