I have lived the last 40 days as a vegetarian. During this time I also did my best to avoid added sugar in my diet. This was all part of a 40 fasting experience that I participated in with some other people in our church. In many ways it was a life changing journey.
A few months ago I came across some material called “A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor” by Pastor Chris Seay. His challenge is two-fold. First, as the title would suggest, we were challenged to, in some practical way, connect and pray for the poor in the world. Second, as we identified with the poor and modified our diet to better relate to the world’s poor, we were encouraged to listen carefully for the voice of God in our lives. I would encourage you to investigate this further if it sounds interesting to you.
Let me tell you about what I found out about myself. I am a fairly discipline person, so this kind of challenge has a certain amount of appeal to me. However, I was not quite ready for what this experience would bring. The vegetarian part of this fast was relatively easy. I chose a fairly simple diet for the 40 days and I paid special attention to my midday meal. I chose to eat beans and rice with some fruit every day at lunch. This meal helped to turn my focus to friends I have in Mexico and Thailand. Each day I prayed for their ministry and the inherent struggles in their lives. So far, so good. Now, here is the problem; I really enjoy dessert! The decision to eliminate added sugar to my diet meant no dessert or any snack with added sugar. The desire for those things was powerful and this is where I learned some important things about myself.
First, I rarely think much about my desires because when I have a desire for something I often just go out and get it. I am not thinking about big ticket things right now. I am talking about the desires that we deal with on a daily basis. It might be related to food, clothing, hygiene, leisure time, etc. The fact is, I am blessed! I live with a great abundance of resources and I have often taken this fact for granted.
Second, I was surprised how much power my desires have in my life! I was not really aware of this until I decided to say no to some of these desires. In some ways it seems kind of silly to battle with myself about not going back to the cupboard after dinner to grab a snack or to the freezer for a handful of chocolate chips (one of my favorites), but there I was, standing in the kitchen trying to decide what would be an acceptable substitute for that snack that would not violate my fast. Then I was reminded about the majority of the people in the world to whom the idea of dessert is not even conceivable. I was reminded how many times my desires for how I use my time has caused me to miss time with God or miss something He wants to do in my life.
Third, it is imperative that I move my focus off of myself and on to:
- God, and what He wants for my life.
- Others. There are incredible opportunities for me to be used in the lives of others if I will free up my resources of time, ability and money.
Some things need to change in my life.