At the end of a fast…

I decided to follow up my previous post.

Mostly because I think the perspective when you start a fast and when you end it is totally different.

I mentioned before that I have a hard time with the prayer part of fasting.

Well, I decided to do something about that finally, at the urging of the Spirit, I think. And start committing more time each day to God.

So far, it’s not anything spectacular.

But I was watching this YouTube video the other day after I had already started, I’ll try to link it here:

But this lady is talking about how 1st century Christians had it rough, and how we in the West, 21st century are spoiled, I’ve heard it before. I’m tired of it, you know?

But then this part of the video, at the end, that she impressed me with is where the 1st Century Christian makes this summary.

Basically pointing out that we have the Bible, we can meet freely in public, and we can openly have our faith…but we don’t read the Bible, we shirk church, and we hesitate to tell others about our faith. And our pastors often encourage this attitude instead of rebuking it.

And this lady says “I (the 1st century Christian) can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I have it better.”

And I thought that is just so true.

Of course, as many commentators were quick to point out, there’s many countries where it’s still deadly to be a Christian. We in the West can feel like the world revolves around us.

I believe God let us be the safe haven to persecuted Christians for a purpose, so we could support them and give them refuge…but a lot of us don’t even remember that it’s our job. That Paul told us to remember those who suffer for Christ as if it were us ourselves.

I suppose it would do no good to worry about it, but, I do think, I could be more aware of it.

Of course it’s getting more dangerous even in the West, but we’re still a far cry from the East and Middle East.

But it’s a more mature attitude to realize that for all that, it’s better to be real about your faith, even if you’re suffering, than it is to have no real faith, and have it all.

Why do we do this, in the West? We squander what we have, and waste our oppertunities.

Not everyone may be a door to door evangelist, or a street preacher, and nowadays, that isn’t received so well anyway.

But tagging Christian Instagram posts and tweeting Bible verses is not exactly witnessing.

I’m sure it blesses some people, but it’s not witnessing in of itself to do only that, and not get more personal, and that’s where we seem to freak out.

I remember this line from “The Devil Wears Prada” where Nigel confronts Andy about her superior attitude towards the fashion industry. “Most girls would die to work where you only deign to work.”

Couldn’t that be said of us? “Many people would die to do, or say, what we barely deign to do or say.”

I don’t mean to be too harsh. Many of us here have found ways to influences others and minister to them even in our wealthy and overstuffed culture. And I’ not hear to disparage that. What is this blog but my attempt to use the internet as a way to tell people about God, instead of just distract them from Him.

But we can’t deny that, at the very least, we brush things off much more easily than our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do. We examine ourselves less, and we compromise with the world more.

Case in point:

Pre-fast, I’ve been exposing myself to more and more sexual content in fiction on the net. I don’t do it on purpose, but I read stuff that has it, and I can’t always scroll enough to skip it. (They ought to make some kind of button for that.)

I don’t think it really affects me…at least, at first I thought that.

But sure enough, those thoughts end up in my head more.

I find actually, that for someone like me, the biggest trap of sexual content is not that you start to lust after the characters or actors involved, I don’t, but it’s that you start to read it into everything. You assume it’s there, even when it isn’t. And your mind supplies the subtext.

Even if you don’t like it, you expect it, and it becomes part of the experience for you.

Post-fast, I read something last night that was like that, more than I expected it to be, and I felt so disgusted it surprised me–because I haven’t been feeling that repulsed for a while.

But I just felt like God was looking through my eyes at it, and it embarrassed me, even if I didn’t intend to see it. I scrolled right quick, but I still felt dirty. And yes, I repented, but it was still jarring to have that experience again. In a way, though, it was relief, at least it still bothers me.

Sexual content is tricky. You can be disgusted by it and still find it addicting just because of the way our brains and bodies are wired. Why else do we like cringe comedy?

And we like that judgmental feeling of being above that, but still viewing it.

I know a lot of Christians who fall into that trap.

The good news is, if that’s all it is, you can get out of it fairly easily. Just cutting out the source will usually do it.

A real sexual addiction is much harder to kick, but not impossible, with God. I’m thankful I’ve never had this problem.

Some people would argue that it’s not bad as long as you’re not engaging in it…I don’t think that’s biblical.

But I give into temptation to let it slide.

And I honestly think, that’s more our temptation as young Christians. The devil doesn’t tell us to think it’s good, not at first. He just tells us to let it slide.

Let it slide when you see LGBTQ content that you know is unbiblical, but it’s popular, so don’t knock it.

Let it slide when you see a sexually charged scene, because it’s not like you’re doing it.

Let it slide when people are expressing attitudes that are anti-Christian in a blatant way.

And i don’t mean that they just aren’t Christian themselves, of course we’ll encounter that, but some creators go out of their way to pollute and corrupt Christian ideology when they write about it, I do think that’s dangerous. If you don’t know your bible especially, you’ll believe anything people say about it.

I remember I was watching this Tiktok compilation of people who left Christianity, out of curiosity, thinking maybe I’d understand it better.

And, it was full of bitter, ignorant people who clearly didn’t really know what Christianity taught at all. Their church either failed to explain, or they weren’t paying attention.

And hey, sometimes it’s that you’re not paying attention. Even the worst churches are bound to get something right, I find most people who complain pick and choose what they listen to from a church, instead of listening to all of it. My father could go to a church that taught basically what his Church taught, but find the one point they didn’t express the same way as him, and make that all he heard. And one time I remember he said he didn’t like a worship song’s lyrics, and then misquoted the lyrics to mean something that the song did not actually say. I was astounded by how he could convince himself it was bad, when we’d all heard the same thing…I thought.

One person in the compilation mentioned reading the whole bible all the way through (which in one sitting, or even over a few days, I found questionable, even I can’t do that and I read very fast) and saying she found so many contradictions.

I’ve read the same bible all the way through more than once, and I was like “What contradictions?”

A lot of minor discrepancies are just misunderstandings, which if you research actual scholars, can be cleared up very easily. They can also be mistranslations, depending on what version you use.

And other contradictions the Bible itself will explain, and acknowledge. They are not really contradictions. The God of the Bible is a collection of paradoxes, much like humans are. He’s Just and Merciful. Stern and Kind. And we’re told that we will perceive Him through the lens of how we ourselves act.

Which is just true of world views in general. Ever notice how prideful people think everyone is proud, and selfish people think everyone is selfish? And kind people tend to see more kindness in others. It’s because we look for what we put out.

Maybe I’m just too biased to see the problems with Christianity, but I’ve heard a lot of criticisms launched at it that only proved the people didn’t understand what the religion actually teaches, and only believed some twisted version of it they got from someone else. I mean, if I want to criticize Hitler or Marx’es philosophy, I would read something they actually said, or did. Not just what their enemies said they did. That’s just smart.

All this to say, just because someone disagrees with you does not make them worth listening to. They could be lazy, ignorant, and stubborn. Taking criticism of the faith fro people who actually study the topic is more useful.

But I think we’re a little too trained to listen to all complaints against Christians, from everyone, regardless of whether they are the kind of person who’s likely to be honest about it or not.

To get back to my original point, I think due to all this confusion, we are worst off than early Christians in some ways. Though we have a lot more opportunities.

But valuing God for Himself is the best gift we can have, and that is the thing we struggle with. We devote our time to so much else.

Now, when I started my fast, I only stopped doing one thing. I kept all my other distractions the same.

But you know what? I stopped wanting to do them as much.

Funny, but watching movies, and reading fics just didn’t seem quite as important without this other thing I was already sacrificing. I still did it, but, I just didn’t feel the need to as often. I began doing things outdoors more, interacting more with my sister instead of just sitting alone doing my own thing.

My energy improved. I felt tired at first without the high of my addiction, bu over the last week as I replaced that more with outside time and time with God, and have recover form being sick, I feel much more energized. My mood is better.

You see, this is what I was saying in my other post. When you give up even one thing, you realize how many things you don’t really have to have in your life. It feels like you do, but then it’s gone, and you find there’s always something else you can do. We don’t rely just on one thing.

Fasting makes me a little more disciplined that before, even if it’s for a short time, but usually, after a fast, discipline comes a little easier for a while, that mindset sticks with you for a bit. Eventually, you do lose it, that’s why fasting is supposed to be a reoccurring practice.

My family is also nice enough to encourage me to stick it out, and not to give it up. Which is always helpful. And to help me occupy my time in other ways.

I find that even doing other things, my thoughts center more on God just because I am aware that I am not doing something, for Him.

(I hear this works in marriage too, for making you feel more loving to your spouse because you know you’re doing or not doing something for them, even if they don’t know. Try it.)

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing I’ve realized though, is that my lack of interest in God is mostly my own fault.

When I get bored with Church and worship and prayer, it’s because I have filled myself up with other things.

I remember the Avatar movie (the blue one, not the travesty of the kids show’s live action one) where the Tsuhik (not sure I spelt that right) says to Jake:

“It is hard to fill a cup that is already full.”

While that movie is far from perfect, I do think they nailed one thing about having a simple, spiritual life. Jake later says “They don’t want anything.”

Funny, when you are filled with Spirit, you really don’t want a lot from the world.

And when you are filled with the world, you don’t want a lot from the Spirit.

We can’t have both.

I think, once upon a time, God made it so we could. The world was made to be pure, and being full of our lives here, and our lives with God, would have been one and the same.

And someday, God promises, He will put it back that way.

But till then, the world has fallen to evil, and if we fill ourselves with it, we turn from God. It happened to Solomon, the Wisest man to ever live before Christ.

And if I think I’m beyond that, I’m kidding myself.

Fasting does humble a person.

I’m not saying I’m a new woman, I think that’s more for God to say. I’m saying that I just have remembered somethings I was letting slide, as you might say.

Not all change is dramatic, you know.

Man, we are so hooked on that in church though. The breakthrough, the breaking off, the strongholds, the mountains moved…

Which is all good, in its time.

But so much change is quiet, gradual, or if it sis sudden, it’s private and not something to yell about until we’ve walked it out.

All my moments of real breakthrough were alone, or silent, or quiet. I have always wondered why.

But when I saw others have big, loud moments…but remain unchanged afterward, I started to wonder if Gd maybe did it that way on purpose. Maybe when it’s big, an d shiny, we focus on that too much, and forget the actual change.

A change of heart happens in an instant, perhaps, but it happens inside. And it’s better to show that with how we act before we tell someone.

We want to hear it right away now. We ask people what they feel or think right after we pray and talk.

But, usually people need more time than that to know if something really stuck with them.

There’s a resewn God is always telling us we have to be faithful, i. e. consistent with our religion. We can’t just do it every once and a while and expect it to change us.

I’m only saying what hundreds and thousands of other people say in the church…and maybe we all say it because it’s true.

So hey, if your Christian, and you’re not liking what I’m saying…oh well.

And if you’re not Christian and you read this anyway, that’s amazing! I hope you got something out of it.

You know, I kind of hope I am making some Christians uncomfortable by saying we need to quit it with the big showy stuff so much. Good.

I know I do have a lot of readers from out of country, though, and maybe you live somewhere where what I’m saying couldn’t’ possibly apply on a cultural level.

Still I think the truth of faithfulness is something all of us need to hear, even if we’re somewhere where our faith is tested everyday. Because it’s just another kind of discouragement.

Suffering and abundance are both tests of our faithfulness. Who knows which is really harder? All I know is we have to face whatever we have, now, if we really want to please God.

I hope I will keep this going, and learn more from it. I’m only human, but God is God.

If I can end my fast, but still maintain some discipline and boundaries, that’s a net gain.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

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