A young man who trains here is a serious athlete. He has delivered consistent effort. He's learning a lot and seeing great progress. The additional size and strength is making him a game-changer on the soccer field.
Is this a time to be screwing around with an ancient spiritual exercise such as fasting? Not eating or sleeping well is a great combination for losing your hard-earned gainz. Why bother?
This young man is not trying to lose weight. In fact, that's the last thing that he needs. He's altogether unaware of the typical deceptive and false notions of shedding toxins. Yet his body will be drained when it should be recovering, and frailty is the last thing he needs to gain over a weekend. The unconscious stress and change in routine will increase his chances of getting sick. At best he will be hangry and slumped in prayerful postures. One cannot be optimally mobile and stable with a kyphotic spine like a willow reed flexed by the the wind.
I know well the shallow legalism of fasting, how to spot and mock hypocrisy. But Jesus himself addressed that a few thousand years ago, and it was covered in the book of Isaiah a few hundred years before that.
While fasting does tend to foster resiliency, self discipline and gratitude, these are not the goal. It's not to show holiness or to get anything. Fasting is not a test of self inflicted suffering. Fasting is a paradox, an upside down practice that is never easy. It cannot be formulated and sold in convenient packages. There's never a good time for it (unless you have ulterior motives like prosperity, temporary weight loss or to show off how holy you are).
"The devil doesn't appear in red face and horns. He comes to you disguised as everything you thought you wanted."
Fasting is supposed to be a time to tangibly put away your pride, to intentionally sacrifice some comfort or advantage in order to intimately feel what it means to go without. A time of fasting creates space for giving to others and having communion with God.
The outcome may be favorable, spiritually. But you will never see a call for fasting in the context of sports performance, where the blinders have us focused on training and nutrition. Fasting may make a high level athlete a bit weaker and slower. It's likely to make him or her forget about the competition and keep all idols, including the physical self, at bay. Fasting helps a person to see all of the world from a new angle.
I was going to claim that fasting provides no edge over the competition. But truly, who is to say?
May that young man's light rise in the darkness...
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Is this time of fasting a day for a man to put away his pride? Is it for bowing his head like a piece of grass, and to spread ashes and cloth made from hair for his bed? Will you call this time without eating a day that pleases the Lord? 6
Is this not a time to take off the chains of sin, and to take the heavy load of sin off the neck? Is it not a time to let those who suffer under a sinful power go free, and to break every load from their neck? 7 Is it not a time to share your food with the hungry, and bring the poor man into your house who has no home of his own? Is it not a time to give clothes to the person you see who has no clothes, and a time not to hide yourself from your own family? 8
Then your light will break out like the early morning...If you take the weight of sin away, and stop putting the blame on others and stop speaking sinful things, 10 and if you give what you have to the hungry, and fill the needs of those who suffer, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkness will be like the brightest time of day. The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body.