I have a friend who is fasting during Lent.
I’m not talking about a not-eating-meat-on-Friday fast, or an I’m-gonna-give-up-red-wine-for-40-days-but-still-drink-white-wine fast. No, he’s doing an honest-to-goodness, Mahatma Gandhi-type fast— nothing but water.
Fasting is a method of religious observance, penitence, and purification which is practiced in several religious faiths. I am of the protestant persuasion, so I will focus mostly on protestant fasting.
Fasting was an option for the early Christians, and later became a requirement. In the early church the typical fast lasted 40 hours. It was later changed to 40 days. The 40-day fast in the early Christian church allowed one meal per day. My friend is not allowing himself even one meal. He is on a nothing-but-water fast for the entire 40 days.
As I write he is in the 20th day of the fast and seems to be doing well. He’s walking and talking and appears to be in a good mood. He studied the process well in advance of beginning the fast; he prepared in the days leading up to the fast, and he is under the observance of several physicians during the fast.
I am a fascinated by the entire fasting process. I have never fasted. I have trouble fasting between breakfast and lunch. To my knowledge, I don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire day without eating something. Even during the worst stomach virus I’ve ever experienced, I probably ate a few crackers.
I am humbled by my friend’s dedication. Whereas my lifestyle borders on being gluttonous, he is taking this time to look inward for a long, rigid period of self reflection.
I am a Methodist. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism fasted once a week, but I don’t remember hearing anything about fasting while growing up in my church. It was probably more selective hearing on my part than anything, but fasting always seemed to be something that was done by other faiths and denominations.
My church was all about food. We had a casserole-laden covered-dish supper every Wednesday night, doughnuts before Sunday School, cookies and candy during Sunday School, chicken salad sandwiches, peanut butter crackers, and green punch during Vacation Bible School, and we planned huge lunches after the main service on Sundays. For me, church and food were synonymous. No one ever spoke of fasting, and if they did, I was probably too busy eating to listen.
In his sermon last Sunday, my preacher suggested that we skip one or more meals each week and taking the money that would have been spent on that meal and give it to the Global Aids Fund http://umglobalaidsfund.org .
Christian fasting suggests that the faster not bringing attention to himself, but I don’t know any other way to encourage others to give to the Global Aids Fund without saying that I’m going to give this skipping-a-meal fasting thing a shot, and I hope others will, too.
Every five seconds someone, somewhere in the world, dies of a disease of poverty. Every 10 seconds someone dies of AIDS. In several sub-Saharan African countries, as much as 40% of the entire population— men, women, and children— is infected with the virus. Even if we could provide medicine to everyone involved they don’t have enough food to take the medicine. Give to the Global Aids Fund, today, whether you skip a meal or not.
At first, I thought my friend was crazy taking on a 40-day fast. In the end, maybe it was the inspiration I needed to get off of my duff and do something.
Mrs. Lampkin’s Methodist Punch
1 48-ounce can pineapple juice
1 package lime Jell-O
3 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 small bottle almond extract
Mix all in gallon container and fill with water to make one gallon.