Thanks to Book Sneeze, I have had the opportunity to review my second book in The Ancient Practices Series (here is my first). Fasting by Scot McKnight was a wonderful book that opened my eyes to a whole new world of what fasting is. Actually I never had any idea what fasting was about until I read this book.
After reading the Introduction and Chapter 1, I was blown away. I had no idea. McKnight defines fasting as this:
Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life. [That is, for a person with an] organic and unified sense of the whole person–body and spirit (or soul) acting in consort. (page 166)
He continuously reminds the reader that fasting is a response. He describes 3 elements of fasting, the sacred moment (A), the response of fasting (B), and the result (C). His emphasis is on B as a response to A. The fasting I have known has been more of a desire to get, starting with B (fasting) in order to get C, a desired result. The flow is A→B→C.
Fasting should be a natural response to the following sacred moments (as listed in the book):
- impending disaster or disaster itself
- the lack of holiness and love and compassion
- the impoverishment of others
- the sacred presence of God
- the absence of justice, peace, and love (page 167)
There are many thing that are spiritual, that are also physical. Far too often we try to make them one or the other. Take the Lord’s Supper. Is it possible to nourish the body and the spirit at the same time? We don’t do that with a crumb of bread and thimble of juice. Or marriage, when two become one flesh. Are you and your spouse one flesh if you never join physically? Can you have one without the other? Should you have one without the other in either case?
Even when we look at our “worship assemblies” there is often a disconnect between Monday through Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday is for the spiritual, the rest is for the physical.
Have we as Christians separated the physical from the spiritual? I think so. We see the flesh as evil, and the spirit good, but God created both and declared both good. When it comes to sorrow, the whole person should unite in that sorrow, not just the spirit. Here is what I came up with;
Feeding your body during sorrow numbs the soul to that sorrow.
Our body and soul are connected, no matter how hard we attempt to remove the two apart. Just like being numbed like a paramedic who sees accidents everyday, when we exclude our flesh and only allow our spirit to respond to a sacred moment, we are numbing our soul to that very moment.
While reading this book I actually experienced this. I fasted this past week in response to something that hadn’t really bothered me much before. I did this because I mentally recognized it as a defined sacred moment. I didn’t want anything out of the fast, I just wanted to respond in a whole person way. What I found was that my soul woke up to that moment’s sorrow. My soul finally responded in a way that my body had not allowed in the past.
Perhaps what we need to become deeper in fasting is bigger eyes and bigger hearts. What we need is greater sensitivity to the plight of others and the grievousness of life’s sacred moments.
We Westerners have inherited forms of dualism, and the most significant one for spiritual disciplines is the one that teaches that our bodies are not vital for our spirituality.
If we follow the narrower and harder path of integrating body and spirit, we will soon discover ourselves responding to life’s grievous moments naturally and inevitably by fasting–not so we can get something. (page 169)
It was a great book to read, and I would recommend it to anyone that would like to learn more about fasting. It has already changed my sensitivity to the needs of others and to my own sin. Though I think my body was okay with being left out for experiencing these moments, my soul is increasingly grateful to be walking in greater unity.
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)