Today was "Fast Sunday" for our ward - at the risk of sounding like I shouldn't
I am going to share this...
It has been a really really long time since I have fasted. It's been over two years with being pregnant and nursing. Two months ago, I kind of eased into it. I think that yesterday I started a little too early- it was the equivalent of going three meals instead of two; which was too much for me - I got a migraine and got really sick. So lesson learned ... don't go longer than you can go - do what is needful. It is not OK to get sick and cause myself to be a burden on my family!
What I really wanted to write about was the little thoughts and realizations that I had along the way-
We have a missionary in our ward who has a hurt knee- so bad that he may have to go home. We were fasting as a ward for his recovery. I was thoughtful about his circumstances, and had been prayerful.
BUT- I could not get my mind off of food- every time I passed the kitchen I wanted to put hand to mouth, out of habit. As I prepared the kid's dinner, I wanted to taste a little of this or a little of that. Lick the knife. (yes I know, bad example) After I got the kids to bed, I wanted to have a little "treat" from "MY" chocolate stash. And then same thing this morning, as I prepared things for the kids breakfast and snack before church, and put together our dinner in the crockpot.
It was such a habit for me to put hand to mouth, without another thought-
and boy was this painful.
How much extra am I consuming in a day?
I reminded myself that I was choosing to fast, and I had this thought-
I don't have to fast, I choose to do it. I am choosing to go without food right now.
Then this thought-
The pain, the ache, the withdrawing, are the same feelings that I encounter spiritually when I "choose" to not partake from the word of God daily. When I am not having my personal time in prayer and scripture study, my spirit aches.
There are times when I go along and I am on track ... and then something happens:
A change in schedule, kids get sick, whatever- I let my personal study go. I have to keep working at it for it to happen. (This is the same with our family devotionals by the way.)
So I looked up fasting on the internet and found some funny and insightful things. Then I found an article from 2001 that impacted me. I know that I had read this and probably heard it spoken before. But it touched me in a way that I had not felt before.
I printed it, and took it with me to church. I wanted to share what he taught, and record my thoughts- It's called:
"The Law of the Fast" by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
He starts out with the account of a lawyer approaching Christ and asking, "What is the greatest commandment?" And Christ answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
Elder Wirthlin goes on to say that by fasting we are keeping the two greatest commandments.
I am still trying to make the connection. So I keep reading.
He says if we want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we need to lift our hearts, our minds and our voices to our Father in Heaven.
He continues to describe how fasting and prayer can help develop courage and confidence. It can strengthen character and build self-restraint and discipline. We mature spiritually and emotionally and we gain a little more control over our worldly appetites and passions.
(Hmm I sure need that apparently!)
Then he continues:
"When we fast, brethren and sisters, we feel hunger. And for a short time, we literally put ourselves in the position of the hungry and the needy. As we do so, we have greater understanding of the deprivations they might feel."
I thought about the discomfort I felt of going this short while without snacking on the dinner preparations. and later on the "after-putting-kids-to-bed-treat."
Again, I kept reading:
"Some look at the overwhelming need in the world and think, What can I do that could possibly make a difference? I will tell you plainly one thing you can do. You can live the law of the fast and contribute a generous fast offering."
I for sure have felt that.
Elder Wirthlin then spoke of how our fast offerings are directly used to bless those in need ... every dollar! And when donations exceed local need they are passed along to help needs elsewhere.
He spoke of traveling the world, and the suffering and need he has seen of "millions of our Heavenly Father's children." And this is where it pierced me...
"Far too many in the world today—thousands upon thousands of families—experience want each day. They hunger. They ache with cold. They suffer from sickness. They grieve for their children. They mourn for the safety of their families. These people are not strangers and foreigners but children of our Heavenly Father. They are our brothers and our sisters. They are “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) Their fervent prayers ascend to heaven pleading for respite, for relief from suffering. At this very hour on this very day, some - are praying for the miracle that would allow them to surmount the suffering that surrounds them."
I thought of those I know, that are suffering, who are experiencing grief. I thought of the pain that I feel for them.
He posed the question- how much should we pay in fast offerings?
"Paying a generous fast offering is a measure of our willingness to consecrate ourselves to relieve the suffering of others."
Then he quoted Marion G. Romney
“Be liberal in your giving, that you yourselves may grow. Don’t give just for the benefit of the poor, but give for your own welfare. Give enough so that you can give yourself into the kingdom of God through consecrating of your means and your time."
Then Elder Wirthlin stated the blessings: "Fasting in the proper spirit and in the Lord’s way will energize us spiritually, strengthen our self-discipline, fill our homes with peace, lighten our hearts with joy, fortify us against temptation, prepare us for times of adversity, and open the windows of heaven."
He closed this by answering the questions that I was wondering in the begining about the 2 greatest commandments.
"As we live the law of the fast, we not only draw nearer to God through prayer, but we feed the hungry and care for the poor. Each time we do so, we fulfill both of the great commandments upon which “hang all the law and the prophets.”
I loved what I learned from this. I found it so interesting that I have heard this before, but today it had so much more meaning to me.