Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This is the Fast that I Desire

Hey all, here is a guest post by Adam Thada I really think is worth reading...

During the first Sunday of lent, my laptop screen went kaput. This normally wouldn’t have been cause for concern. It’s only a month old and still under warranty, but I just moved to South America, and there doesn’t appear to be a single Dell repair center on the entire continent. My wife and I seem to use our laptop for everything here – work-related writing and excel sheets, e-mailing, blogging, calling supporters in the U.S., personal budgeting, listening to music, watching movies, listening to Mars Hill sermons, and even playing cards. So we were understandably a little frustrated. But during this season of fasting, repentance, and reflection, I was able to see the grace and opportunity in this interruption.
Fasting, in the traditional sense of abstaining from certain food and drink, helps us put our sustenance in its proper place. Our well being, maintained by the bounty of the earth, is a gift from God. Like any good thing, however, it can be abused. Today there is a sad crisis in the world surrounding food; about a billion people are overweight while another billion can’t seem get enough to eat. It’s not hard to see that our food production and consumption patterns are not in harmony with God’s intent.  
So to it can be with my computer. Too often, I spend countless hours reading news that I don’t really need to know, I vainly post my latest thoughts for my 356 “friends” on Facebook, or I watch endless hours of footage from the Colbert Report. Being informed, staying in contact with friends, or enjoying a favorite show are healthy habits, but in excess they can displace other very productive and healthy ways of spending my time. 
And so a broken laptop gave me some spare hours to reflect on how I could arrange my hours anew. Being raised in the church, my first impulse was to spend more time on my “spiritual life” (as if the rest of my life is secular?) – reading the Bible, praying, doing devotions, and memorizing the Scriptures. Certainly, the world and I would probably be better if that was so. But my mind came back to that famous Old Testament scripture on fasting, in Isaiah 58 (excepts here, but I encourage you to read the whole chapter ):
“…You are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? … You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind… Do you really think this will please the Lord?
No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. 
If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn… Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” (NLT)
God’s intent is not personal piety for its own sake. He doesn’t want our hearts for one day a week if our bodies, economies, and social systems are dysfunctional the other six. He doesn’t want a holy enclave isolated from those suffering at the margins. What he wants is reconciliation, between family members, between races and cultures and countries, even reconciliation with the very earth from which we derive our life. I have heard it said that when there was hunger among the early Christian church, the whole community would fast until there was enough food for everyone to eat. The fast served a dual purpose, or perhaps we can say it was multidimensional, reconciling everything at once and not excluding anyone. 
So with a broken laptop screen, I had a choice. I knew that there were endless ministry opportunities around the city. There is an orphanage that is overcrowded and understaffed, hundreds of babies with no one to hold them or feed them. The south side of town is run at night by glue-sniffing children who are largely abused, neglected and ignored. Whole neighborhoods are without running water, and the overpriced water they buy is filthy. There was no reason that I couldn’t connect my own spiritual growth and fasting practices with the pain that was so obvious in my own community.
Then something else unexpected happened – my laptop was miraculously fixed by a local technician in 24 hours for a reasonable price, not something I was told to anticipate in Latin America. Perhaps I should have left it in the closet until Easter! So instead of the forced fast that I was initially faced with, I have to choose it now, rearranging my hours so that I can be at service to my God and my neighbors. It has yet to be seen if I will, but God has used this incident to reinvigorate my imagination. After this season of Lent, during the day-to-day grind of life, we will all be faced with the same choice. We can continue with our own vision of spiritual growth and personal piety, or we can join God in the fast that he desires. 
After language school, Adam Thada and his wife Becky will work in El Alto, Bolivia with Word Made Flesh, where the community has established a hospitality center for women who prostitute (La Casa de Esperanza). WMF Bolivia is about to launch a new employment and counseling program, where women will be able to make and export quality craft items as a source of alternative employment.  

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