Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why We Ignored Jesus

And when you fast, do not look miserable as the actors and hypocrites do when they are fasting--they walk around town putting on airs about their suffering and weakness, complaining about how hungry they are. So everyone will know they are fasting, they don't  wash or anoint themselves with oil, pink their cheeks, or wear comfortable shoes. Those  who show off their piety, they have already received their  reward. When you fast, wash your face and beautify yourself with oil, so no one who looks at you will know about your discipline. Matthew 5:16-18a, The Voice
If you know me on FB or IRL, you have probably heard about the fast that Laura I undertook for 5 days. It was a vegetable and fruit fast, which means we could eat and drink only those foods. If you've heard about it, it's because we haven’t exactly been quiet about it, even though Jesus said what you read above. To be fair, my transgression has been way more egregious than Laura’s, but she’s not exactly been closemouthed (except toward meat and bread and all grains and legumes and dairy and anything else you would ingest that isn't fruit or vegetable) either.
So how do we justify our total disregard for Jesus’ words?

Well, looking righteous wasn't our reason for advertising the fast. And if you're tempted to think we're wonderful for undertaking this fast, you are very generous (thank you), but you should know that we quit a meal short of our goal (unfortunately that one meal wasn't very satisfying). So we are at best one meal shy of wonderful.

We also did not publicize our venture to gain pity, although I sometimes live like a disciple of Seinfeld’s George Constanza who once said, "Pity's very underrated. I like pity. It's good." Any pity I solicited (one person called me "grumpy") or mock guilt I inflicted was just for entertainment, pretending that we were actually suffering. The truth is we burdened ourselves with eating and drinking only all the fruits and vegetables we could--no real burden.

Ours was not a true commitment; it was an experiment. It all started when Kimberly texted her mother to recommend a movie about fat. I didn't care to see it, but with only end-of-the-summer TV to relax with, I agreed to give it a shot. The movie was Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and 30 minutes in, we stopped it and went out to buy a juicer. 

People fast for any number or reasons. Our fast was for physical health reasons, not for spiritual purification or growth or for political or spiritual leverage, although we are well aware of the connections between our spiritual, mental, and physical health. And we are aware that Jesus is an equal opportunity physician--healing body, mind, spirit, and even the social order.

In sum, I don’t believe our fast has anything to do with what Jesus was talking about.  The attitudes and actions Jesus warns against were about self-congratulating and solicitation of pity. We had neither of those intentions. 

We did, however, want people to know about our fast. Did I mention that we couldn't eat meat, bread, grains, legumes, or dairy? They even frowned upon potatoes. Potatoes!

No comments: