I've been fasting, with others from my church, to start the new year. Fasting, at its core, is a removal of something. It’s subtraction, not addition. Why is this so difficult? Because we are all really into addition.
Our lives, at every turn, are built upon the hope and desire to add. From birth, all the way to death, our bodies fight for addition… bones long to grow, cells reproduce, our stomach desires more, energy begets energy… even as we grow old, our bodies are amazingly stubborn, and resilient, and adaptive, and fighting to survive. Our limbic system, the oldest parts of our brain, motivates us endlessly to consume, ingest, and to replenish. We fear scarcity. We place a high value on people who demonstrate an ability to produce, to stand out, to have more. Think about it, why do we make celebrities out of those who are physically more attractive, who run faster, who are stronger, or who make money? Because we are wired, somewhere deep inside, to want to reproduce ourselves, and we’ve made the determination that these people - the faster, stronger, richer people - give us the best chance at doing so. We want to add! This is what drives us. From our neighborhoods, to our businesses, to the way we make friends, to the complex geopolitical, social structures we’ve created…. it’s all built upon getting more. We are addition people.
But, the gospel is subtraction. It’s the whole thing. Why did Jesus rub so many people the wrong way? Because he said…
when asked to go one mile, go the second.
when you feel the urge to turn away, touch the sick.
when you long to keep your money, give it to someone else.
when you are slapped, turn the other cheek.
when you someone sins against you, trespasses over you and is indebted to you… forgive.
Why are all of these things so difficult to do? Why do they require us to completely deconstruct the way we normally think? Why do all of them, at some level, make us feel foolish, or naked or vulnerable or powerless? Because it’s subtraction, not addition.
Subtraction is the gospel. It’s the whole thing.
That’s why fasting, the removal of that one thing in my life, is so difficult. Because at its core, it is the decision to turn, walk against the grain, swim upstream, and otherwise go against everything I have ever thought or been conditioned to believe.
Look, let's be honest, if you’re fasting social media, you’re potentially losing. Your potentially losing new friend groups forming allowing you to grow more secure, or losing new business enabling you to increase sales, or losing new information making it possible for you to gain intelligence. These are not trivial things!
If you’re fasting sugar, you’re potentially losing. Your losing opportunities to hang out with others who are organizing their activities around sugar, or at a basic level, you’re simply losing energy. Oh, man, losing energy is the last thing your body wants you to do!
We could name all the other things people fast, but when we filter it down, it winds up being the same battle: We’re addition people. We believe, at a subterranean level that addition is life and that subtraction is death.
And Jesus said, If you want to live, you have to die.