Revelations: Fasting rewards are meaty
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On Super Bowl Sunday, I consumed meat - a delicious spread of teriyaki, mild and hot wings. As Madonna took the stage for a quasi-entertaining half-time show during Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind., I tore apart the bite-sized chicken wings with carnivorous savagery.
"Oh meat, how I've missed you," I thought, as I ripped through the poultry, and licked the sauce from my fingers.
I rewarded myself with the wings that night because for the past three weeks, I've been restricted from eating meat.
This January, in a small effort to honor God with my body, I decided to partake in The Awakening: a national network of churches participating in a spiritual and dietary fast.
In addition to the prayer and Bible reading requirements, the fast called for eating modifications.
Across the nation, those who committed to the 21-day challenge, participated in the "Daniel" fast - a Bible-based partial fast (based on the book of Daniel) that restricts meat, dairy, sweets, bread, processed foods and foods containing chemicals. Some versions exclude all beverages except water, but I included fruit and vegetable juice, and black coffee.
For 21 days, participants of the fast viewed short sermons posted on The Awakening's website at 6 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., and were encouraged to pray daily.
It was a seemingly small commitment, I thought at the start. But as the weeks progressed, I realized what grand sacrifices the fast required. It meant frequent odd conversations about why I couldn't hang out with my friends for happy hour, or why I continued to ask restaurant waiters if they had any items cooked without meat or dairy.
A few weeks leading up to the fast, I was already making steps to convert myself to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I've been interested in improving my overall health, and eating in a more organic style. So, the fast was a perfect excuse to make the transition.
The change didn't mean everything I purchased at the grocery store was organic-labeled. It just meant the foods I put in my cart were natural, plant-based and from the earth - with minimal amounts of additives, preservatives, or chemicals. So, I traded cow milk for almond milk, quick oats for slow-cooking traditional oatmeal, cookies for fruit, canned soup for homemade vegetarian soup, and so on.
I was making the changes slowly, even going to the gym in the early morning hours, but still indulging in fast food and sweets whenever desired.
But then, the fast started. And I was forced to make a complete switch to vegetables, beans and whole grains.
The first few days were the toughest for me, and to be honest, I failed the first day. A strawberry cake was brought into the office to treat the weekend workers, and only eight hours into the fast, I consumed three pieces.
I had no control. I couldn't say no. And I felt the weight of that fast-breaking failure for the rest of the day.
On the drive home from work, I told God, "I can't even make it eight hours! How the heck am I going to do this for 21 days?"
I remember wanting to give up entirely that night. No one knew I was starting the fast, so it wouldn't matter either way.
But I decided to start fresh the following day.
Determined not to fail two days in a row, I completed the vegetable and fruit requirements for the day. But like a defiant child, I made sure to gorge on as many vegetables I could successfully fit down my throat.
The next day, a co-worker purchased pizza for the office, and I had to will myself not to eat it. I'm fairly certain I smelled the pizza before the delivery man even entered the newsroom, and as I watched everyone merrily chow down, I realized how frequently I give in to temptation.
In the past, if it pleased me to eat a cookie, or slice of pizza, for example, I ate it. I always gave in to my own pleasure. And until the fast, I never realized how much of a stronghold food had over me, or what an idol I had made of food.
As the weeks progressed, the dietary modifications became easier, and by week three, a habit. I even considered continuing as a vegan once the fast ended.
After eating my meat reward Sunday night, I decided I didn't miss it so much after all. I'm certain, in time, I'll eventually lose interest in it altogether.
Since the fast ended, I've noticed I haven't been craving fast food, sweets, or sodas. And my body has never felt so energized.
The fast also fostered several spiritual breakthroughs: forgiveness for those I've needed to forgive, direction in areas I've needed direction, and at least a temporary breakup from an unhealthy relationship with food as a counselor, and consolation prize. I also lost about seven pounds.
There were so many benefits that came from the fast, and I would encourage you all, if you're in need of a physical and spiritual cleanse, consider fasting for God this year. It doesn't have to be 21 days, and can be a complete or partial fast.
But if you're willing to try, (knowing you may fail along the way) you might find the rewards are meaty and delicious.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.