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From sundown on Sunday until sundown yesterday (Monday), I fasted as a spiritual discipline for Lent. It was a surprising experience, one which I will repeat on every Monday of Lent. It was difficult, but not in the way that I expected. There was also an unanticipated joy. Here are a few of my reflections.

1) Hunger as reminder

Once or twice an hour yesterday, there would be an unpleasant pang of hunger in my stomach. However, those pangs came to represent moments of peace and strength. Whenever I felt weak, I was reminded why I was fasting: to honor God. It’s so easy amidst deadlines and meetings and Facebook for God to slip from our thoughts altogether, only to be remembered when we say our prayers at night. Hunger served as my constant reminder to keep God at the front of my mind. My very body became a devotion to God.

 

2) Hunger and Communion

I ended my fast by taking Communion at the college’s chapel service. All through worship, that loaf of bread and cup of sweet, rich juice sat on the altar beckoning to my empty belly. I could barely focus on the sermon because I was so desperate for that tiny bite of bread. At first, I scolded myself as a glutton. But mere seconds after taking Communion, my stomach felt satisfied for the first time in 22 hours. The body of Christ was sufficient. He was enough to give me strength.

 

3) Fasting as solidarity

Food is a huge part of college culture. We’re busy, stressed out students who love to eat. We love cookies, we love cupcakes, we love pizza, we love bacon, we love cheese. Many times throughout the day I was offered food that I couldn’t accept. This recalled a long-lost memory for me of a youth group trip to Heifer International Ranch. As part of a poverty simulation, the members of the group received roughly 800 calories a day each while engaging in physical labor. By day three, it took immense effort even to walk to the afternoon gathering. There, a ranch volunteer wearing Gucci sunglasses held a bowl brimming with chocolate candies. When we asked her to share, she brushed us off. If we tried to trade with or steal from her, the other volunteers thwarted us. We were the global poor, she was the rich West. Fasting was my small way of expressing solidarity with the hungry who the world forgets. I do not pretend to know what true hunger and its accompanying hardships feel like, but at least for once I was a listener instead of a consumer.

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