When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I used to have this huge misconception (based on the verses above) that Christians were NEVER allowed to talk about fasting. I thought the second I even hinted at it all my sacrifice would be in vain. This led me to quite a few awkward and hilarious moments where I refused to say the words "I'm fasting from
but also didn't want to lie so I usually avoided. I'm talking run in the opposite direction or awkwardly change the subject to something completely unrelated avoidance.
I also used to cringe (actually I still do) when my friends would walk around announcing to any and every one that they couldn't do this or eat that because they were fasting. I thought "Oh boy, they blew it. Better luck next time". Thankfully after studying a little more I learned that the ideal way to act during a fast is somewhere in between those two extremes. He wasn't talking about fasting but I think Lecrae put it best when he said:
I was living in this mindset where I was so afraid of doing something wrong that I forgot to give God the glory. I missed the biggest thing that Matt. 6:16-18 pointed out; and that's the attitude of our hearts. Isn't that all throughout the Bible? Whether it's tithing or serving (or fasting) what God cares about is the motives behind the act. Are we doing something out of obligation and tradition or are we doing it out of love and admiration for our Creator? Matt. 5:14-16 says
You are the light of the world
like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (NLT)
So what does this all mean in regards to fasting? There are three main questions I like to ask myself when it comes to sharing my experience with others.
First, "what do I look like?" Most days I just roll out of bed and do a mad dash as I get ready for work, not really caring what I look like. When I'm fasting I take the time to be more intentional when it comes to my appearance like I would if it were a special occasion (but I do make sure the primping isn't so intense that it's a distraction). Personally, when I look good I feel good so taking time to iron my shirt tends to ward off some of the crankiness brought on by my withdrawal symptoms; though ultimately the true fix is the joy that comes from filling that void with Jesus.
Secondly, I ask "am I bragging?" When put in the situation to share the fact that I'm fasting with someone I make sure that I'm not unintentionally giving myself a pat on the back for abstaining from whatever. I share with humility by reminding myself, internally, the purpose of and need for my fast. (Humbly does not mean gloomily
we shouldn't sound like Eeyore).
Third, if I get in to sharing details during or experiences after my fast I ask "is this helpful?" I do not want to overshare what God is working on in me (that's the personal part) but if it will benefit the person I'm talking to on their journey or fix something in our relationship with one another then I feel comfortable speaking on it (it's not private).
As I grow and fast more I continue to learn new things and my experiences shape and sometimes change my views. A year ago I was past the point of running from the subject of fasting but I still wouldn't have written a blog post like this. Who knows where another year will bring me?