The Word in the Wings

The Word in the Wings  > Reflecting El Roi: fasting

Reflecting El Roi: fasting

By: LEE GILES

Glorify Dance Theatre will premiere a new ballet, Reflecting El Roi, in March 2024 during the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a forty-day period when Christians prepare to experience Holy Week and Easter and to remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Reflecting El Roi uses dance to explore three traditional intentions of Lent: preparation, prayer & fasting, and giving. Guest writer Lee Giles shares her personal reflections on the intention of fasting.

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When I asked Melody about upcoming performances, she told me the spring production would be centered on Lent and mentioned fasting as part of that. I haven’t seen any of the performance to know how the Lord will translate the theme through dance, but I have been thinking through my own experiences with fasting.

Jesus said, “When you fast,” not “if you fast.” I have fallen into a regular routine of going on a complete fast on Fridays, which I break during our family communion service each Friday evening. Bowing my head before the body and the blood with my own body empty and ready to receive makes it a very meaningful time for me each week. I view my regular fast as a way to remind my flesh it is crucified. It doesn’t get to speak to me, doesn’t get to tell me what to do, doesn’t get its way. It can’t even tell me it’s hungry or thirsty. In baptism our flesh is crucified, dead and buried, and we are resurrected, clothed in Christ. We can then say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

I think that verse from Galatians 2:20 is the most basic definition of a Christian, that we are crucified and no longer live, but Christ lives in us. Denying ourselves, whether food or some indulgence, is a reminder that self is dead and does not need to be catered to. We don’t live to serve self; we live to serve God. Our labors go toward fulfilling His purposes, not our desires.

While my story of fasting is slow and steady, my husband’s is more dramatic. He had been entangled in a sin, stuck in a sin-repent-repeat cycle. He went on a forty-day fast of no food. Denying his flesh for so long broke the sin cycle. His flesh didn’t get a say any longer, and he’s been free of it ever since.

But there is another side to fasting beyond simply refraining from food or giving something up. Isaiah 58 records God’s thoughts on it. He rebukes the religious leaders for their fasting. They bowed themselves low and denied themselves, but God’s not after our religious acts. He’s after our hearts. They fasted outwardly, fulfilling what they deemed their religious obligations, but their hearts were still firmly set on self.

“…Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and oppress all your laborers. Behold, you fast for strife and contention…”

Isaiah 58:3-4

The Lord then tells us the type of fast He has chosen for His people.

“Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out as the morning, and your healing will appear quickly…”

Isaiah 58:6-8

Things like freeing the oppressed may sound dramatic, but they are things Christ came to do (Luke 4:18-21) and we’re supposed to be like Christ. Even more than that, we’re to no longer live, but Christ is to live through us and those are the things He does.

I have a personal story to tell about that passage. Our family spent fourteen years overseas as missionaries, splitting the time between Macedonia and Turkey. While we were in Macedonia, I experienced pain in my upper back for about a month. I sought relief, going to a sports therapist and a massage therapist. Nothing got rid of it. I took any chance I could get to lie flat on my back. But then one morning, I was reading Isaiah 58, and it dawned on me that I was doing the things on the list. I pointed it out to the Lord and told Him my healing should come quickly. It happened in that instant.

What was I doing at the time? I was visiting the homeless in a local trash dump and bringing them food and clothing collected at church. I was writing a book on sin. We even had someone staying with us who was without a home; she had aged out of the foster-care system and was looking for work.

Maybe those things still seem out of reach, but there’s more to the Scripture. Isaiah 58:13 gives us three points we can live by in order to live lives that always honor and please the Lord.

…and honor it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words.

We can give all of ourselves, every little bit, over to His use. That’s why dance is an amazing way to worship. You are giving your whole self to Him.

There are more great promises in there, not that we complete a checklist to get things from God. We can never earn our salvation, but God’s word is true and He will be faithful to keep it!

And Yahweh will guide you continually, satisfy your soul in dry places, and make your bones strong. You will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters don’t fail. Isaiah 58:11

Use this Lenten season as a time to reflect how you are choosing to live each day. Do your choices with your time, money, and attention reflect the reality of your position in Christ, or do they show you that self has been resurrecting itself and needs to be denied and buried again?

Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

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Lee Giles is the creator of Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool which provides free, quality Christian education for children around the world. She’s the author of several Christian novels, books on the Christian faith, and many books of devotionals which lead the reader straight through the Bible. They, like her homeschool curriculum, are all available for free on her website, allinonehomeschool.com. Also on the site are themed Bible studies, full Bible courses for students, as well as a 90-day discipleship course.    

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