Sitting in a room filled with friends, fellow interns, and some pastors, my heart is pounding, my chest tightening, and my eyes holding back the flood of tears.
Thoughts are racing through my mind:
“Why are we talking about this?”
“This does not include me, right?”
“This is not what I signed up for when being a part of the Frontline Internship.”
“I should just get up and walk out.”
“But I don’t want anyone to notice that I am loathed by this topic.”
“They may think I am disobedient to walking with Christ in this spiritual discipline.”
“Maybe I am.”
Fasting. Not eating food. Fasting from food for three whole days.
I actually used to be an expert at this. Fasting from food was my entire world. It was my place of control, but I also felt controlled by it. My place of comfort, but I also felt unsafe and full of complete fear. It was my identity. It was abuse -- I felt like I deserved to be in pain, and restricted, in order to be happy, to be loved.
I did not want to walk back into the tomb of self-abuse, since I knew that Jesus walked out of the tomb for me. So I was afraid. I was afraid of this call to three days of fasting with the other interns and residents.
A resident knew of my past. She completely understood it herself. She encouraged me to not feel ashamed if my fasting looks different than everyone else -- the Lord knows your past, He is gentle and kind in His leading. She reminded me to give these concerns and fears to Him. To ask Him what He has for me, when stepping into this fast, instead of walking away in fear.
A few months later, it was time to do the fast.
I no longer felt like I was going to have a panic attack when hearing or saying that word. My heart was calm. I felt peace. The Lord prepared my heart. I was so encouraged by His Scripture and His character.
This is what he taught me, as I got ready:
“Mariah, you said you don’t want to walk back into the tomb because you knew that I walked out of it, but do you really believe that I walked out of it? If I walked out of the tomb, then what does that mean? Do you truly believe that I am King. That I reign. Do you believe that I have authority? That I victoriously defeated death? Don’t you think that I can victoriously defeat your eating disorder?”
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace [not in fear of condemnation but in confidence], that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, added by Nancy Guthrie)
“Because of [Jesus] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Because of the gospel, there is no worst-case scenario!
Psalm 118:17-18 says: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.”
Psalm 22:5, 26, 28, 31b says: “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame… the afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord… for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations… that he has done it [it is finished].”
Lastly, Proverbs 12:1 says: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
One week before the fast, the Lord gave me a picture. A picture about His discipline. His discipline is like a bear hug -- it is strong and stern, protective and embracive, loving. It becomes painful when I try to squeeze myself out of the hug to turn my own way. Whether it is to self-abuse or to self-righteousness, it is painful when my flesh is trying to fight in my own strength or indulge in sin rather than accepting his stern and loving discipline. I wrote a poem to describe this.
The Bear Hug
Your discipline is not your hands around my neck,
But it is your arms fully wrapped around my body.
Your discipline is not built up anger ready to attack,
But it is embracing me in the midst of what I lack.
Your discipline is not shaming me in silence,
But it is quieting the voices that are in defiance.
There are not many paths to pleasantry
And many paths to destruction.
There is one path to pleasantry
And one path to destruction.
We either choose God, that which is pleasant
Or we choose our own way, that which is destructive.
Many times I want to go my own way,
Kicking and screaming all the day.
“Are you really good?”
“Do you really know what’s best?”
Like a bear
He takes me in full of strength and love.
Lord, may I not be like a child
Running away from correction.
But may I rest in your protection.
Your sternness is goodness.
Your sternness is kind.
You are the only one that can be perfectly stern and loving at the same time.
The perfect Father that looks at me and says “you are mine”.
“You are good”
“You do know what’s best”
I cry out.
Thank you for being like a bear
That fights for me.
That searches to grab me
And hold me tightly.
Your arms fully wrapped around my body.
Then, the fast began.
Day 1: Physically, I felt fine. I felt really bold in the Holy Spirit to pray, love, and encourage people in my community. The Lord showed me that this world really is unsatisfactory, and that He truly is the satisfaction. He opened my eyes to experience the balance of seeing the eternal perspective, that every good and perfect gift in the present physical world is from Him.
Day 2: Physically, I felt fine again. My body was not groaning and crying out for food. It was more of my gluttonous internal craving that wanted food. I wanted taste on my tongue. I wanted to experience flavor. In that, God reminded me of the verse in Psalm 34, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him”.
Day 3: I felt terrible, physically. The experience of this day was what I feared. I was afraid of the dizzy light-headed feelings that could lead to passing out. I was afraid that connecting back to my past would bring up a lot of emotions and fears, and worse that I would desire that again. Because I felt so weak, I laid in my bed all morning. As soon as I closed my eyes, I thought I was back there. It felt so dark and sad. I started shaking and crying. I opened my eyes and I started praying, telling myself that I am not back there. “You are with me, Jesus. I am safe. I am safe.” In that moment, I felt His care. I was reminded of some passages in Psalm 51, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart… Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:6, 8, 17).
Instantly, He restored the joy of my salvation and upheld me with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12). Later on that day, I cried, but this time my tears were filled with such thankfulness! Jesus redeemed! He redeemed what I thought could never be redeemable!
HE IS KING. HE REIGNS. HE IS VICTORIOUS. HE WALKED OUT OF THE TOMB. HE IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. HE OVERCAME THE WORLD. HE CARES. HE HEARS. HE UNDERSTANDS. HE IS REAL. HE IS THE REDEEMER.