Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Isaiah 58:6-11 -- On Fasting

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Isaiah 58:6-11

I've been thinking a lot about fasting lately, mostly because of D&C 59:14 which says "fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer."  ... I don't know if I have ever actually felt that fasting was the same as rejoicing, so I've been trying to figure out what I am missing.  And today, I think I am at least getting it a little bit.  In the verses leading up to this selection, God is explaining some of the things that fasting is not.  It isn't for us to engage in our own pleasures or labors.  It isn't so that God will be more likely to hear us.  It isn't about affliction and suffering... and in this selection, God explains what fasting *is.*  In the first verse of the selection it is to loose the bands of wickedness, to relieve burdens, free the oppressed... abolish servitude.  And I was thinking about that, and thinking that some of it could be literal, but the way it makes sense to me is figuratively.  Fasting helps us free ourselves in a lot of ways.  We aren't running on physical fuel, and what we have left is spiritual fuel.  It's almost pulling us out of the temporal to a higher level, where we are much freer and less bound to the needs and desires of the physical aspect of ourselves.  I definitely don't feel this way each time I fast, but I think that it is the goal and the purpose of fasting, to get to that level of freedom from the demands of the body, allowing us to focus on the more important things.  And I have felt that before, mostly on my mission, and I believe that is the first step towards the "rejoicing" inherent in fasting.  It can be pure joy, to know that your body is exhausted or weak, but that you are still functional and happy because you are fueled by the spirit.
That, of course, isn't all.  The selection continues with more of what fasting should be.  It's about other people.  About giving to them and serving them... spending time with them.  Focusing on people and not on self, which can be another source of joy. :)  If we refrain from "the putting forth of the finger" and speaking vanity--sounds like lecturing people or thinking that we are the coolest people in the room--then we'll be blessed.  Drawing out our souls to the hungry... that's an interesting phrase.  I wonder if it means stretching ourselves to help others, or perhaps pulling our souls out of the darkness where we've been hiding them. :)  ... Either way, the idea seems to be providing for the hungry, and satisfying those who are afflicted.  And then, of course, the blessings that seem to be overwhelmingly cool and abundant if we get it right. :)  Light and health and God guarding us, and being responsive to our pleas... our darkness will be as noonday, which is awesome, and not very dark at all. :)  And God guiding us continually.  Amazing blessings... ones that I definitely want in my life.  So, I'm going to work on getting this fasting thing down correctly, along with all the things that God says that it means, instead of treating it as affliction or starvation or a way to get God to listen.  It isn't those things, if we do it right.  Let's work on it, and get closer to fasting=rejoicing. :)

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