What Is Sucking The Life Out Of You? (thinking about fasting differently)

What are the things in your life that are sucking the life out of you?

What are the things that are draining and leaving you feeling empty?

The other day I listed the practice of “fasting” as one of the keys to living a more radical Christian life. I don’t know about you, but fasting wasn’t a practice I was taught growing up. As an adult, I began to see fasting exclusively in terms of food and could never figure out why this would be a helpful spiritual practice. I tried it many times over, and often found fasting from food or certain types of foods as being challenging– but not always life-giving. While I will still occasionally work unhealthy food items into a fast (especially my vice of drinking soda), I began to see fasting differently a few years ago. Fasting too often becomes a practice of withholding good things from yourself (such as not eating food) instead of a practice to eliminate the unhealthy things from your life. The former can be a good challenge in self discipline, but the latter is an approach to fasting that pours life into you.

I believe that spiritual practices are designed to build us up, something I believe even Jesus affirms. During his ministry, one of the rubs between he and the conservative religious leaders were over observing the Sabbath. The religious leaders had developed a ton of oral rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and Jesus didn’t adhere to those oral traditions very well. In response to their push back, Jesus reminded them that the “Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath”. Simply put: observing a day of rest was supposed to be something that was life-giving not life-draining. As is often the case, the practice had become life-draining because of all of the additional rules religious leaders attached to the practice.

I think in many ways, our concept of fasting can become twisted in this same way. We end up fasting in such a way that it becomes life-draining as if we were created for the fast instead of the fast being created for us.

Three years ago, I didn’t give fasting a second thought because my concept of it was something life-sucking instead of life-giving. Today however, I see fasting much differently and have actually grown to love fasting.

Today I see fasting as an opportunity to eliminate things from my life that are taking life from me, zapping me, draining me, or detracting from the person I want to be. I see fasting as an opportunity to pour into my life by eliminating things that are unnecessarily taking from my life.

On March 5th, the Church calendar will enter the season of Lent as we make our way to Easter. As part of Christian tradition, many believers fast for this period of time– a tradition I have grown to embrace. This year, my hope is that you will join in with me– but that you’ll look at fasting differently. Instead of simply food, the question becomes: what is sucking the life out of you?

Make a list of those life-draining items, and pick some that you’re going to take a fast from. Taking a break from some of these activities or practices will become something that will pour life into you simply by eliminating something that is unnecessarily taking life away. You might even find that with your increased energy and your better mood, that you start adding things into your life that fill the gap in a more positive way.

For me, I’ll be spending less time with my face buried in my phone and less time watching television, in favor of more time reading, and spending more quality time with my family.

That, I believe, is the kind of fasting that pours life into us.

If you’ve never considered fasting, or if fasting has never been a “positive” exercise for you, I want to encourage you to re-think how you see fasting. My hope is that you’ll grow to see it as an opportunity to prune out areas of your life that are detracting from who you are and who you want to be. Fasting becomes a season of renewal and a period of reclaiming your life– and what better time to do that than the onset of spring?

If you’re joining me in fasting for Lent, what life draining activities will you be fasting from?

About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014), tells the story of his journey out of lifeless religion and into a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a Doctor of Missiology/Intercultural Studies student at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. Ben is also co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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