Spring has sprung and it is time for most people to do their cleaning, decluttering, and planning new ways to make their lives simpler for the rest of the year. I was speaking with a Christian friend who has some clutter in her life right now. The clutter which is not in any particular order includes job, career, money, social life and intimate life. So far, her only reliable and dependable constant is God. She is definitely a decent Christian because she usually calls on the strength of God in good times and bad.
She recently informed me that she is fasting to help with some difficult decisions that has been plaguing her recently. Looking back, I was not very supportive because I refuse to fast and do not see the point. I usually experience a major headache when I am hungry, everything starts spinning, and I cannot focus on a loudly growling stomach. It stands to reason that fasting would not allow me to focus on anything but food. She mentioned that other’s have chosen to “fast” from tv, internet or other nonfood items. The purpose of fasting is to remove anything that may be blocking one’s focus on God. Ummm… It is a very interesting concept of doing a nonfood fast.
I understand where the concept of fasting comes from in the bible-Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights trek in the wilderness. Obviously, Christians have followed Jesus’ lead in order to become closer with God. My view is the idea of fasting does not seem necessary because it should be automatic that good Christians would always put away time to spend with God and therefore, fasting is not for the good Christians but for the ones who have strayed off the beaten path. So it might seem redundant, in my eyes, for a decent Christian like my friend to fast at all. In my own logic, I should be the one going on a hunger strike for way longer than 40 days and nights :-) . Again, her point is to clear her mind and focus only on God to guide her.
This all brings up the point of Christians decluttering their lives by putting aside the things that are a hinderance-barrier-stumbling block to seeking God. The old testament talks about idol worshipping, which is understood to be anything or person that is more important than God. In the new testament, Jesus stated in Luke 14:26 something about hating family if anyone wants to be his follower (Chief of the least gives a good explanation of that verse). His point was simple and that was for Christians to put aside the many things that blinds them to having faith.
Most people will read the old testament and remember Abraham who was willing to declutter his life for God by
killing sacrificing his son. Most people will read Jesus’ statement to the rich young ruler about selling his riches, and of course the idea of “forsaking all others” in order to be a good Christ follower. The bible talks about Peter having a mother-in-law but there was no discussion of Mrs Peter dead or alive. Did he declutter his life of his wife? Since the bible did not speak of the other 11 men having any wives or children, then it would not be a stretch to assume (base on the accounts in the NT) that these men also decluttered their lives of monetary and familial responsibilities.
It is safe to say that the modern Christian has no long-term plans to go single and penniless until death. If most Christian churches except some like Catholicism are not asking such a sacrifice, then what exactly is left to be a huge barrier for the 2012 Christian man and woman? What in your life could Jesus ask of you to leave behind that would cause you great sorrow? It is not easy to truly declutter one’s life in order to get away and focus on God as Jesus did in the wilderness. Most people have bills to pay, children to feed, ailing family to care for, education to attain, a marriage to manage, church offices to fulfil etc. Would most Christians consider these things clutter? Would Christians be willing to fast from these things for an extended period of time? Or when we think clutter, are we talking about the more frivolous things? I could say that between the Catholic priests and the Amish, they definitely show the closest resemblance to what Jesus talked about when he wanted his followers to give up everything and take up their crosses. I think the life-long missionaries exemplify Jesus’ call to bear one’s cross. It is a given that most of our identified idols are “evil” but what about the other “good” stuff? So the question is, if we are not giving up the big things, are the little things that are temporarily put aside for a quick fast are really what Jesus meant in regards to removing all obstacles between God and us? Or is it that we do these little things in order to make ourselves feel better about being good Christians? Or is it that because it is 2012, fasting and taking up our crosses mean something completely different?