This month I’m pleased to introduce you to a friend and co-worker of mine, Nicole Unice. She’s got great insights to share about a unique fasting experience she recently participated in with her church.
Yes! I’m a woman going in lots of different directions. On any given day, I’m doing the mom thing, the writer thing, the leadership thing….but my favorite thing to do is talk with women about the intersection of God’s word and their reality.
This month we’re talking about fasting on my blog. I know you recently participated in a fast together with your church family. Tell us more about that — why did you fast? What was the experience like? How did it challenge or inspire you?
I had done a year of practicing spiritual disciplines on my own blog, and one of the things I tried was a 5-day challenge. Essentially for five days, you try to eat like the bottom half of the economic world. This equates to beans and rice and a small piece of chicken per day. This year, we took that same challenge and invited our entire church to participate. I’m not going to lie–it was HARD. I was hungry, and cranky, and the week felt like it lasted a month. But it was amazing on so many levels–sharing the experience as a community, having our eyes opened to poverty, talking to our children about it, and sharing stories with our neighbors and friends.
I think fasting is one of the most neglected disciplines among many Christians, including myself. Is it a struggle for you? If so, why? How can we push past that struggle into a regular practice of fasting?
Fasting is a struggle because it is absolutely anti-culture. We idolize food and bodies in our culture so our understanding of hunger and fullness has been entirely corrupted. For years, I didn’t fast because I was tempted to turn it (selfishly) into a fast-acting diet. I have friends who “fast” during Lent and it’s really just a diet. I think this is exactly what Jesus DIDN’T want us doing when it comes to “working out our salvation”. I knew that my heart wasn’t prepared to treat fasting as a spiritual discipline. Instead, I fasted from other things (like TV). Only recently have I become more “pure” in my ability to fast.
Why do you think it’s important for Christians to fast? What do we miss if we neglect it?
I think it’s important for Christians to fast because it’s a reality check about idols in our life. When we strip away our comforts, be it food, technology, or whatever, we get to lay our heart bare. Everytime I’ve fasted I’ve been blatantly reminded of my own sinful heart–how I crave comfort and security and find life in many, many things other than God. And this is a good thing to discover, because it makes me, once again, desperate for Jesus to be in my life.
Recently on your site you blogged about busyness, being over scheduled, lack of margin, and the need for Sabbath practices. Sabbath rest and saying “no” to commitments are a type of fast, I think. Do you agree? What might it look like for a woman to “fast” from overcommitments?
I think one way for women to fast from busyness is to decide to NEVER say yes to anything. Basically, every opportunity that comes her way, she decides to say something like “I will need to think about that and get back to you.” This removes us from that knee-jerk reaction of “oh, that sounds fun!” or “oh, they really need me!” Giving ourselves a day or two to think about what we are saying YES to is really helpful. I tell women to think about every YES as a NO. As in, “By saying Yes to x, I’m saying No to y.” I recently have told myself, “by saying yes to writing a book, I’m saying no to my early-morning jog.” I need to name exactly what I’m giving up when I say yes to things. And oftentimes, what women are giving up is personal time, time with their husbands, time with God. And those things need to be said YES to more often!
We’ve looked at Isaiah 58, too, this month on my blog — the idea of the true fast being the practice of justice & caring for the oppressed. How does this passage inspire you personally?
I love the link between this verse in Isaiah and what fasting does to us. Because the fast of Isaiah 58 is a call to deny ourselves, our own comforts, plans and dreams, and to serve others. And just like fasting from food will, the fast of Isaiah 58 makes us desperate for God–his work, his presence, and his grace. And I think, at the end of it all, God is most interested in our lives becoming more and more fastened to him. Fasting and mercy do that for me.
I see you’ve got a book on the horizon. Can you tell us anything about it?
Yes! Authors say corny things like “this is the book I was meant to write.” So, this is the book I was meant to write. It’s called She’s Got Issues and it’s all about the question of change–as in, is being a Christian supposed to actually change me–the way I feel, act and relate to others in this world. And it addresses very ordinary issues, like insecurity, comparisons, control–and hopefully helps women to find out how God works through these things in our lives to bring us closer to him. To find out more, you can stay connected with me over on my FB page or via twitter @nicoleunice.
[JUST A REMINDER TO MY READERS: If you subscribe to my blog (on the right near the start of this article), you’ll be eligible for special subscribers-only sale prices on my books on November. A great chance to buy meaningful Christmas gifts! Subscribers receive about 1 blog post per week full of spiritual encouragement for real-life women.]