In his book on fasting, Dr. Scot McKnight calls Christians to an embodied spirituality. He writes, “We worship God and we love God in our bodies and with our bodies and in concrete, physical, tangible, palpable ways.” (Fasting p.2) In other words, the ways we use our bodies or do not use our bodies in our spiritual practices matter. We are not a soul living in a shell. We are physical and spiritual beings. In his book, “The Screwtape Letters,” CS Lewis points this out. He writes, “Humans are amphibians… half spirit and half animal… as spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.” It’s interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that in another section of “The Screwtape Letters,” Lewis discusses the importance of kneeling for prayers. The things we do with our physical bodies matter in our spiritual lives.
Perhaps this is why fasting is a practice that is older than Christianity itself and yet is still with us. Humans intuitively know that things we do with our physical bodies matter in our spiritual lives. How are you doing in your faith? Are you growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ? If not, then why not?
Dr. McKnight defines fasting as a natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life. Our fasting this Lenten season is a response to a grievous moment. What grieves us? Our knowledge of our sin causes us to grieve. This is a consistent pattern in scripture. You’ll remember that King David fasted in 2 Samuel 12 after his sin caused his unborn child to be struck ill. The prophet Joel calls for a fast in response to the coming judgment of the Lord. “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hears and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, who relents from punishing.” (Joel 2:12-13) Lent is a season of repentance. In other words, it is a time when we are to be aware of our own sinfulness. Understanding that we are sinners is a grievous moment. Fasting is a proper response.
What you do with your body matters. If we are to grow in our spiritual life, perhaps it is time for us to practice some of the ancient spiritual disciplines the church has handed down to us.