Today we would like to share a guest journal from our sister, Stephani Duff.
The notion of fasting has always baffled me. In junior high and high school, before I knew Jesus or understood what it meant to be so distracted by the world that setting my gaze on Him would feel crippling, “fasting” felt like some sort of social experiment. I gave up things like soda, or fried food, and inevitably broke it just days later, never to look back as I popped the tab of an ice cold can of Coke and laughed next to friends with whom I’d promised fasting in comradery.
Once I really began to know Jesus and understand more fully what it meant to walk with Him, I would hear people within my community, or at church, talk about fasting and a proverbial hunger pang would ripple through my body. I am not a woman who withholds much – least of all her tongue, her coffee, or her caloric intake. And why would Jesus want me to walk around hangry all the time, anyway?
But He is always ready and willing to educate us more about Himself, isn’t He?
Years later, post that insecure junior high student who did the no soda thing because her friends were doing it, too, and now more comfortable in the skin that often feels like it’s too much, I am a woman who travels as part of her work. I am a woman who has a spiritual mentor, because the Lord and I both know this hot mess needs accountability and good, tough love from someone I will not roll my eyes at and walk away from. I am, against all odds and misconceptions I’ve had about myself, a woman who genuinely wants to be better.
Recently, in a conversation with my mentor, I confessed I didn’t want to be distracted by men and dating while I was traveling. My time with Jesus always feels the sweetest and most intimate when I am international; undistracted by technology and easy access to my favorite people, my wandering heart is forced to hit those speed bumps slow and come to a stop – and I have come to savor those tender moments.
My sweet mentor smiled softly at me as she laid the hammer down. “Steph, if you don’t want to be distracted by men, then don’t allow the space for them to distract you in the first place. I want you to pray through fasting from dating.”
I scoffed, thinking how deliciously cute it was that she thought I’d even mildly consider giving up dating, attention, and conversation with men who were interested in me for any amount of time.
But then it became all I could think about. What would this look like for me? What might I learn about myself in the absence of being hungry to garner attention? Even more, what might I learn about Jesus?
I began to consider all the ways this would lead me to stretch myself – in the quiet moments when I didn’t want to be alone, but wouldn’t have someone to reach out to fill it, I would need to position myself before the Lord, asking Him to fill the space, the heart within me, the loneliness that all too often beat like a drum. It occurred to me this would strengthen a muscle I may have not even realized I possessed before, let alone knew how to use. The questions mixed with my fear of willingly stepping into a season of intentional singleness, and instead of fear roaring like a deafening death toll, all I could hear was the softest whisper, imploring me.
Meet me here. Won’t you just meet me right here?
I won’t pretend to be an expert on fasting – listing all the ways this has, or will, transform me into a better, stronger woman. I won’t deign to believe that every step of this will feel easy and soft, a welcoming down comforter after a long day. And I don’t know how this will end. But I do know He is in it. He asked me to join Him and He hasn’t left my side for one moment.
In all the hours I spent trying to make conversation happen with men who were painfully and obviously wrong for me, I was unknowingly closing doors of entry to better understand my Maker.
I am in a season of fasting right now, and here’s what I’m learning.
Jesus is a gentleman. I don’t know many of them. But I am for certain He is one. He is careful with me. He waits patiently for me. He longs for my time so He can remind me of His love for me. He takes Scripture I’ve read and underlined before and makes it new – just for me. Y’all, Jesus is sweet. Maybe this isn’t news to you. But maybe, just maybe, you are like me and don’t fully know His character. He enjoys showing sweetness to His girls. I am certain.
Fasting will cultivate cravings for something better. In His grace, I have not missed dating. That’s not to say it will never creep up on me. But I find myself excited to open my Bible, to discover what He plans to teach me from one day to the next – and this is new. When we become so consumed with a facet of our lives that it’s what we wake up thinking about, we are missing the bigger story He is crafting on our behalf. We are missing the opportunity to be found hopeful.
When we welcome Him into the fallow ground of our hearts, His harvest will be bountiful. In the midst of this season of fast, I am also seeking medical assistance for food sensitivities and allergies. I said it before, and I will say it again – I am not a health conscious person. I like what feels and tastes and smells good. Whether it is a wise choice for me, or not. But what are we missing when we hold tight to only what we’re certain is good, in place of what He promises will be better? I’ve been walking around so consumed with the desire to be known and seen by another human that I’ve missed all the times Jesus has snuggled in close to me and said, just let me hold your hand, girl. I’ve been kicking up stones and dirtying my hands with mud, trying to dig up something I’m so convinced is right, and all the while, He’s waiting to plant wildflowers and say the word, ya’ll.
Bloom, girl. Just, bloom.
Let Him do the planting. Let Him break the chains. Let Him write the story. And trust that when He’s asking us to wait, we are most certainly in good company.
Steph Duff wants to live in a world where every voiceless child is given articulation and Jesus is the name on every lip. When she's not sharing Kingdom-shaking stories with Back2Back Ministries, you can find her drinking copious amounts of caffeine, curling up with her nose in a book, laughing loudly, continuing an on-going attachment to semi-colons, planning her next trip to India, and making snail mail cool, again. Her favorite scripture is "Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told." Habakkuk 1:5 ESV. Learn a little bit about what makes her blood stir and the yearnings of her heart at www.stephaniduff.wordpress.com.