As I enter the third and final week of my first Daniel Fast I find myself reflecting on all the spiritual awakenings I’ve had the last two weeks and had to document it.
Never heard of the Daniel Fast? Well it’s a religious diet based on the biblical book of Daniel that refers to a 10 or 21 day avoidance of foods declared unclean by God in the Laws of Moses.
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:2, 3
Many followers of Jesus Christ participate in this fast throughout the year, however the start of the new year is a very popular time to rejuvenate one’s spiritual commitment to God and seek to develop a more intimate relationship with Him.
My church in Harlem, First Corinthian Baptist Church has participated in this spiritual sacrifice and extended season of prayer in years before, however when the our Senior Pastor, Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr. announced our congregational participation this year I felt a deep sense of dread and unwillingness.
In fact I’ve never been willing to pursue God’s will for my life through fasting. I may give up a few things for Lent each year, but I’ve never considered following a practice as limited as the Daniel Fast – see the food requirements here.
This reluctance however wasn’t spiritual. It was emotional and rooted deeply in fear. A fear that is inherent to this truth: for 14 years I struggled with a vicious addiction knowns as an eating disorder. Yes those days are gone and I’ve been living a healed life for over five years. Yet still the idea of fasting literally sounds like a dangerous play with fire to me.
So while my opposition and fear to participate in the Daniel Fast was real this year, my desire to overcome fear (in general) and draw closer to God in expectation for 2016’s greatness was realer. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been possible – here are the challenges I’ve faced and the prayers that pushed me through.
The Refusal To Let My Weight Weigh On Me
Eating disorder or not, pursuing the Daniel Fast as a weight loss tool negates the purpose of the commitment. Sure eating a plant based diet and abstaining from processed food, dairy, sugar and caffeine can slim you down, however focusing on weight loss in this 21 day fast can cause you to lose more than pounds and inches. The greatest loss being spiritual nourishment. I found this out very quickly. See, here’s the deal, my normal diet is quite healthy and extremely high in protein due to my career as a fitness professional. Therefore not even a week into the fast I knew I was losing weight, and worse, muscle. Like any woman the fat loss excited me, but the muscle loss infuriated me. I mean, anyone over 30 who weight trains can attest to the fact that gaining and maintaining muscles is crucial. So to combat this battle with my physique I found myself having to constantly check my spirit and attitude before I checked my weight. Praying, “God, I’ve been here and I’ve done this. May my weight not weigh on me over these 21 days. We have worked so hard together to overcome the mental chains of the scale. Sustain me and remind me that I am more than a number.”
The Practice Of Passing On Perfectionism
Speaking of numbers, counting calories was the next demon I had to overcome. Initially I thought it was a great idea to track my daily intake on an app, you know to make sure I was getting enough protein to sustain my physically demanding job. But boy did that turn out to be a mistake. Perfectionism, the main culprit of eating disorder behavior instantly seeped in and I had to redirect my spirit and thoughts in this space too. Praying the same prayer that I prayed earnestly during my recovery, “Lord God thank you for this meal. May it be nourishment to my body and not a hinderance to my life.” This simple prayer always reminds me to put food in it’s proper place – fuel for my body and not a fascination or obsession with perfectionism. Eating food because of how it makes me feel is something that I pray lingers after this fast. For instance not eating dairy has brightened my skin and has eliminated my ongoing issues with psoriasis and eczema. Plus not having caffeine in my system has allowed me to not only sleep all night, but I now rise super early (sans an alarm). Simply put, to connect to food in this way trumps any data that any app could ever track.
Party Of One Just Got Fun
But beyond the food and exercise the greatest challenge this fast has presented is it’s social impact. As in the impact on my very healthy social life. I’m without question an extrovert, so I love to hang out. Anyone who knows me will tell you that if I’m not trying to start a party then I’m trying to find one to crash. This fast however has eliminated all the above. Grabbing drinks after a long day or Friday nights rolling into Saturday mornings immediately exited the scene. In exchange, personal growth, time with my bestie JC (Jesus Christ) and overall deeper human connections have made appearances. However in moments of loneliness or boredom I’ve prayed, “What a honor it is to spend quiet time alone with you Jesus. Fasting is like going on a spiritual vacation with just the two of us. May we continue to travel together in this intimate way even after these 21 days.”
Ultimately to confront myself and my spirituality in this way has been more rewarding than challenging. I am excited for what 2016 has in store and I truly feel like I have goosebumps on my soul. However the greatest take away that I wanted to share with you, whether you’re spiritual or not, is that the ability to see something that literally scares you to death and still find life is truly something worth fighting for. The ability to face fear, endure it daily and know that it’s presence is not strong enough to keep you from your destiny is essentially the one thing I hope we all experience this year.